de la Torre, J. R., Christianson, L. M., Beja, O., Suzuki, M. T., Karl, D. M., Heidelberg, J., DeLong, E. F.
Proteorhodopsin Genes Are Distributed Among Divergent Marine Bacterial Taxa
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Oct 28; 100(22): 12830-5.
Proteorhodopsin (PR) is a retinal-binding bacterial integral membrane protein that functions as a light-driven proton pump. The gene encoding this photoprotein was originally discovered on a large genome fragment derived from an uncultured marine gamma-proteobacterium of the SAR86 group. Subsequently, many variants of the PR gene have been detected in marine plankton, via PCR-based gene surveys. It has not been clear, however, whether these different PR genes are widely distributed among different bacterial groups, or whether they have a restricted taxonomic distribution. We report here comparative analyses of PR-bearing genomic fragments recovered directly from planktonic bacteria inhabiting the California coast, the central Pacific Ocean, and waters offshore the Antarctica Peninsula. Sequence analysis of an Antarctic genome fragment harboring PR (ANT32C12) revealed moderate conservation in gene order and identity, compared with a previously reported PR-containing genome fragment from a Monterey Bay gamma-proteobacterium (EBAC31A08). Outside the limited region of synteny shared between these clones, however, no significant DNA or protein identity was evident. Analysis of a third PR-containing genome fragment (HOT2C01) from the North Pacific subtropical gyre showed even more divergence from the gamma-proteobacterial PR-flanking region. Subsequent phylogenetic and comparative genomic analyses revealed that the Central North Pacific PR-containing genome fragment (HOT2C01) originated from a planktonic alpha-proteobacterium. These data indicate that PR genes are distributed among a variety of divergent marine bacterial taxa, including both alpha- and gamma-proteobacteria. Our analyses also demonstrate the utility of cultivation-independent comparative genomic approaches for assessing gene content and distribution in naturally occurring microbes.