Phylogenetic Reconstruction Shows Independent Evolutionary Origins of Mitochondrial Transcription Factors from an Ancient Family of RNA Methyltransferase Proteins


Here, we generate a robust phylogenetic framework for the rRNA adenine N(6)-methyltransferase (RAMTase) protein family that shows a more ancient and complex evolutionary history within the family than previously reported. RAMTases occur universally by descent across the three domains of life, and typical orthologs within the family perform methylation of the small subunits of ribosomal RNA (rRNA). However, within the RAMTase family, two different groups of mitochondrial transcription factors, mtTFB1 and mtTFB2, have evolved in eukaryotes through neofunctionalization. Previous phylogenetic analyses have suggested that mtTFB1 and mtTFB2 comprise sister clades that arose via gene duplication, which occurred sometime following the endosymbiosis event that produced the mitochondrion. Through dense and taxonomically broad sampling of RAMTase family members especially within bacteria, we found that these eukaryotic mitochondrial transcription factors, mtTFB1 and mtTFB2, have independent origins in phylogenetically distant clades such that their divergence most likely predates the last universal common ancestor of life. The clade of mtTFB2s comprises orthologs in Opisthokonts and the clade of mtTFB1s includes orthologs in Amoebozoa and Metazoa. Thus, we clearly demonstrate that the neofunctionalization producing the transcription factor function evolved twice independently within the RAMTase family. These results are consistent with and help to elucidate outcomes from prior experimental studies, which found that some members of mtTFB1 still perform the ancestral rRNA methylation function, and the results have broader implications for understanding the evolution of new protein functions. Our phylogenetic reconstruction is also in agreement with prior studies showing two independent origins of plastid RAMTases in Viridiplantae and other photosynthetic autotrophs. We believe that this updated phylogeny of RAMTases should provide a robust evolutionary framework for ongoing studies to identify and characterize the functions of these proteins within diverse organisms.



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Journal of Molecular Evolution



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