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Photosynthesis originated in the domain Bacteria billions of years ago; however, the identity of the last common ancestor to all phototrophic bacteria remains undetermined and speculative. Here I present the evolution of BchF or 3-vinyl-bacteriochlorophyll hydratase, an enzyme exclusively found in bacteria capable of synthetizing bacteriochlorophyll a. I show that BchF exists in two forms originating from an early divergence, one found in the phylum Chlorobi, including its paralogue BchV, and a second form that was ancestral to the enzyme found in the remaining anoxygenic phototrophic bacteria. The phylogeny of BchF is consistent with bacteriochlorophyll a evolving in an ancestral phototrophic bacterium that lived before the radiation event that gave rise to the phylum Chloroflexi, Chlorobi, Acidobacteria, Proteobacteria, and Gemmatimonadetes, but only after the divergence of Type I and Type II reaction centers. Consequently, it is suggested that the lack of phototrophy in many groups of extant bacteria is a derived trait.

Citation

Tanai Cardona. Origin of Bacteriochlorophyll a and the Early Diversification of Photosynthesis. PloS one. 2016;11(3):e0151250

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PMID: 26953697

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