Substitution rate calibration of small ribosomal subunit RNA identifies chlorarachniophyte nucleomorphs as remnants of green algae.

Chlorarachniophytes are amoeboid algae with chlorophyll a and b containing plastids that are surrounded by four membranes instead of two as in plants and green algae. These extra membranes form important support for the hypothesis that chlorarachniophytes have acquired their plastids by the ingestion of another eukaryotic plastid-containing alga. Chlorarachniophytes also contain a small nucleus-like structure called the nucleomorph situated between the two inner and the two outer membranes surrounding the plastid. This nucleomorph is a remnant of the endosymbiont's nucleus and encodes, among other molecules, small subunit ribosomal RNA. Previous phylogenetic analyses on the basis of this molecule provided unexpected and contradictory evidence for the origin of the chlorarachniophyte endosymbiont. We developed a new method for measuring the substitution rates of the individual nucleotides of small subunit ribosomal RNA. From the resulting substitution rate distribution, we derived an equation that gives a more realistic relationship between sequence dissimilarity and evolutionary distance than equations previously available. Phylogenetic trees constructed on the basis of evolutionary distances computed by this new method clearly situate the chlorarachniophyte nucleomorphs among the green algae. Moreover, this relationship is confirmed by transversion analysis of the Chlorarachnion plastid small subunit ribosomal RNA.

Van de Peer, Y., Rensing, S.A., Maier, U.-G., De Wachter, R. (1996) Substitution rate calibration of small ribosomal subunit RNA identifies chlorarachniophyte nucleomorphs as remnants of green algae. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 93(15):7732-6.









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