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Open Access Research article

Complex distribution of EFL and EF-1α proteins in the green algal lineage

Geoffrey P Noble, Matthew B Rogers and Patrick J Keeling*

Author Affiliations

Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Department of Botany, University of British Columbia, 3529-6270 University Boulevard, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2007, 7:82  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-7-82

Published: 23 May 2007

Abstract

Background

EFL (or elongation factor-like) is a member of the translation superfamily of GTPase proteins. It is restricted to eukaryotes, where it is found in a punctate distribution that is almost mutually exclusive with elongation factor-1 alpha (EF-1α). EF-1α is a core translation factor previously thought to be essential in eukaryotes, so its relationship to EFL has prompted the suggestion that EFL has spread by horizontal or lateral gene transfer (HGT or LGT) and replaced EF-1α multiple times. Among green algae, trebouxiophyceans and chlorophyceans have EFL, but the ulvophycean Acetabularia and the sister group to green algae, land plants, have EF-1α. This distribution singles out green algae as a particularly promising group to understand the origin of EFL and the effects of its presence on EF-1α.

Results

We have sampled all major lineages of green algae for both EFL and EF-1α. EFL is unexpectedly broad in its distribution, being found in all green algal lineages (chlorophyceans, trebouxiophyceans, ulvophyceans, prasinophyceans, and mesostigmatophyceans), except charophyceans and the genus Acetabularia. The presence of EFL in the genus Mesostigma and EF-1α in Acetabularia are of particular interest, since the opposite is true of all their closest relatives. The phylogeny of EFL is poorly resolved, but the Acetabularia EF-1α is clearly related to homologues from land plants and charophyceans, demonstrating that EF-1α was present in the common ancestor of the green lineage.

Conclusion

The distribution of EFL and EF-1α in the green lineage is not consistent with the phylogeny of the organisms, indicating a complex history of both genes. Overall, we suggest that after the introduction of EFL (in the ancestor of green algae or earlier), both genes co-existed in green algal genomes for some time before one or the other was lost on multiple occasions.