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Phylogenetic distribution and evolutionary pattern of an α-proteobacterial small RNA gene that controls polyhydroxybutyrate accumulation in Sinorhizobium meliloti

Lagares, Antonio, Roux, Indra, Valverde, Claudio
Molecular phylogenetics and evolution 2016 v.99 pp. 182-193
Ensifer meliloti, Northern blotting, RNA, Rhizobium etli, Rhizobium leguminosarum, Rickettsiales, Sinorhizobium fredii, bacteria, covariance, genes, models, new family, open reading frames, phylogeny, polyhydroxybutyrate
It has become clear that sRNAs play relevant regulatory functions in bacteria. However, a comprehensive understanding of their biological roles considering evolutionary aspects has not been achieved for most of them. Thus, we have characterized the evolutionary and phylogenetic aspects of the Sinorhizobium meliloti mmgR gene encoding the small RNA MmgR, which has been recently reported to be involved in the regulation of polyhydroxybutyrate accumulation in this bacterium. We constructed a covariance model from a multiple sequence and structure alignment of mmgR close homologs that allowed us to extend the search and to detect further remote homologs of the sRNA gene. From our results, mmgR seemed to evolve from a common ancestor of the α-proteobacteria that diverged from the order of Rickettsiales. We have found mmgR homologs in most current species of α-proteobacteria, with a few exceptions in which genomic reduction events or gene rearrangements seem to explain its absence. Furthermore, a strong microsyntenic relationship was found between a large set of mmgR homologs and homologs of a gene encoding a putative N-formyl glutamate amidohydrolase (NFGAH) that allowed us to trace back the evolutionary path of this group of mmgR orthologs. Among them, structure and sequence traits have been completely conserved throughout evolution, namely a Rho-independent terminator and a 10-mer (5′-UUUCCUCCCU-3′) that is predicted to remain in a single-stranded region of the sRNA. We thus propose the definition of the new family of α-proteobacterial sRNAs αr8, as well as the subfamily αr8s1 which encompass S. meliloti mmgR orthologs physically linked with the downstream open reading frame encoding a putative NFGAH. So far, mmgR is the trans-encoded small RNA with the widest phylogenetic distribution of well recognized orthologs among α-proteobacteria. Expression of the expected MmgR transcript in rhizobiales other than S. meliloti (Sinorhizobium fredii, Rhizobium leguminosarum and Rhizobium etli) was confirmed by Northern blot. These findings will contribute to the understanding of the biological role(s) of mmgR in the α-proteobacteria.