Journal Article

Chlorophyll Biosynthesis Gene Evolution Indicates Photosystem Gene Duplication, Not Photosystem Merger, at the Origin of Oxygenic Photosynthesis

Filipa L. Sousa, Liat Shavit-Grievink, John F. Allen and William F. Martin

in Genome Biology and Evolution

Published on behalf of Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution

Volume 5, issue 1, pages 200-216
Published in print January 2013 |
Published online December 2012 | e-ISSN: 1759-6653 | DOI:

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Bioinformatics and Computational Biology
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Genetics and Genomics


Show Summary Details


An open question regarding the evolution of photosynthesis is how cyanobacteria came to possess the two reaction center (RC) types, Type I reaction center (RCI) and Type II reaction center (RCII). The two main competing theories in the foreground of current thinking on this issue are that either 1) RCI and RCII are related via lineage divergence among anoxygenic photosynthetic bacteria and became merged in cyanobacteria via an event of large-scale lateral gene transfer (also called "fusion" theories) or 2) the two RC types are related via gene duplication in an ancestral, anoxygenic but protocyanobacterial phototroph that possessed both RC types before making the transition to using water as an electron donor. To distinguish between these possibilities, we studied the evolution of the core (bacterio)chlorophyll biosynthetic pathway from protoporphyrin IX (Proto IX) up to (bacterio)chlorophyllide a. The results show no dichotomy of chlorophyll biosynthesis genes into RCI- and RCII-specific chlorophyll biosynthetic clades, thereby excluding models of fusion at the origin of cyanobacteria and supporting the selective-loss hypothesis. By considering the cofactor demands of the pathway and the source genes from which several steps in chlorophyll biosynthesis are derived, we infer that the cell that first synthesized chlorophyll was a cobalamin-dependent, heme-synthesizing, diazotrophic anaerobe.

Keywords: redox-switch; selective-loss; manganese; cyanobacteria; fusion

Journal Article.  10457 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Bioinformatics and Computational Biology ; Evolutionary Biology ; Genetics and Genomics

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.