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Open Access Research article

Analyses of six homologous proteins of Protochlamydia amoebophila UWE25 encoded by large GC-rich genes (lgr): a model of evolution and concatenation of leucine-rich repeats

Myriam Eugster1, Claude-Alain H Roten12 and Gilbert Greub1*

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Research on Intracellular Bacteria (CRIB), Institute of Microbiology, University Hospital Center and University of Lausanne, Switzerland

2 Comparative Genometrics Center (CGC), Department of Fundamental Microbiology, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2007, 7:231  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-7-231

Published: 16 November 2007



Along the chromosome of the obligate intracellular bacteria Protochlamydia amoebophila UWE25, we recently described a genomic island Pam100G. It contains a tra unit likely involved in conjugative DNA transfer and lgrE, a 5.6-kb gene similar to five others of P. amoebophila: lgrA to lgrD, lgrF. We describe here the structure, regulation and evolution of these proteins termed LGRs since encoded by "Large G+C-Rich" genes.


No homologs to the whole protein sequence of LGRs were found in other organisms. Phylogenetic analyses suggest that serial duplications producing the six LGRs occurred relatively recently and nucleotide usage analyses show that lgrB, lgrE and lgrF were relocated on the chromosome. The C-terminal part of LGRs is homologous to Leucine-Rich Repeats domains (LRRs). Defined by a cumulative alignment score, the 5 to 18 concatenated octacosapeptidic (28-meric) LRRs of LGRs present all a predicted α-helix conformation. Their closest homologs are the 28-residue RI-like LRRs of mammalian NODs and the 24-meres of some Ralstonia and Legionella proteins. Interestingly, lgrE, which is present on Pam100G like the tra operon, exhibits Pfam domains related to DNA metabolism.


Comparison of the LRRs, enable us to propose a parsimonious evolutionary scenario of these domains driven by adjacent concatenations of LRRs. Our model established on bacterial LRRs can be challenged in eucaryotic proteins carrying less conserved LRRs, such as NOD proteins and Toll-like receptors.