Burki F, Hirakawa Y, Keeling PJ
Mol. Biol. Evol. 29 (9) 2109-2112 [2012-09-00; online 2012-03-30]
Nucleus-encoded plastid-targeted proteins of photosynthetic organisms are generally equipped with an N-terminal presequence required for crossing the plastid membranes. The acquisition of these presequences played a fundamental role in the establishment of plastids. Here, we report a unique case of two non-homologous proteins possessing completely identical presequences consisting of a bipartite plastid-targeting signal in the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi. We further show that this presequence is highly conserved in five additional proteins that did not originally function in plastids, representing de novo plastid acquisitions. These are among the most recent cases of presequence spreading from gene to gene and shed light on important evolutionary processes that have been usually erased by the ancient history of plastid evolution. We propose a mechanism of acquisition involving genomic duplications and gene replacement through non-homologous recombination that may have played a more general role for equipping proteins with targeting information.