Genomic heterogeneity in a natural archaeal population suggests a model of tRNA gene disruption

Junichi Sugahara, Kosuke Fujishima, Takuro Nunoura, Yoshihiro Takaki, Hideto Takami, Ken Takai, Masaru Tomita, Akio Kanai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Understanding the mechanistic basis of the disruption of tRNA genes, as manifested in the intron-containing and split tRNAs found in Archaea, will provide considerable insight into the evolution of the tRNA molecule. However, the evolutionary processes underlying these disruptions have not yet been identified. Previously, a composite genome of the deep-branching archaeon Caldiarchaeum subterraneum was reconstructed from a community genomic library prepared from a C. subterraneum-dominated microbial mat. Here, exploration of tRNA genes from the library reveals that there are at least three types of heterogeneity at the tRNA Thr(GGU) gene locus in the Caldiarchaeum population. All three involve intronic gain and splitting of the tRNA gene. Of two fosmid clones found that encode tRNA Thr(GGU), one (tRNA Thr-I) contains a single intron, whereas another (tRNA Thr-II) contains two introns. Notably, in the clone possessing tRNA Thr-II, a 5′ fragment of the tRNA Thr-I (tRNA Thr-F) gene was observed 1.8-kb upstream of tRNA Thr-II. The composite genome contains both tRNA Thr-II and tRNA Thr-F, although the loci are >500 kb apart. Given that the 1.8-kb sequence flanked by tRNA Thr-F and tRNA Thr-II is predicted to encode a DNA recombinase and occurs in six regions of the composite genome, it may be a transposable element. Furthermore, its dinucleotide composition is most similar to that of the pNOB8-type plasmid, which is known to integrate into archaeal tRNA genes. Based on these results, we propose that the gain of the tRNA intron and the scattering of the tRNA fragment occurred within a short time frame via the integration and recombination of a mobile genetic element.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere32504
JournalPloS one
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Mar 5

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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