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Clues to the evolution of photosynthesis

ave suggested the green-sulfur bacteria were the first photosynthetic organisms."

The sequenced genome of C. tepidum, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, represents the first time that a microbe in the green-sulfur group has been fully sequenced. It is also the first time that a bacteria that is both photosynthetic and anaerobic has been sequenced. The sequencing of the C. tepidum genome was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy

TIGR President Claire M. Fraser said the project is part of a wider effort at TIGR to study organisms that play important roles in global energy and nutrient cycles. "We chose C. tepidum because it is a model system for studies of the green-sulfur bacteria and anaerobic photosynthesis," she said. "Also, scientists have developed a suite of genetic methods to help study this important microbe."

Green-sulfur bacteria such as C. tepidum are widely distributed in aquatic environments where light reaches anoxic (low-oxygen) layers of water containing reduced sulfur compounds. When TIGR researchers analyzed the microbe's single circular chromosome, they identified numerous genes that may play novel roles in photosynthesis or other processes that make use of the energy of light.

Using a method of comparing complete genomes known as phylogenomic analysis, the scientists found strong similarities between the metabolic processes of the green-sulfur bacteria and processes in many species of Archaea, the organisms that represent the third domain of life. This analysis also revealed the likely duplication of genes that are involved in the pathways for phytosynthesis and in the metabolism of sulfur and nitrogen. "These duplication events may help explain why this microbe is able to use lower levels of light to carry out photosynthesis than other species," said Eisen, the first author of the PNAS paper.

Another reason why biologists study green-sulfur bacteria is that the
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Contact: Jonathan Eisen
jeisen@tigr.org
301-838-3507
The Institute for Genomic Research
1-Jul-2002


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