Journal of Bacteriology 190(22) , 7548-7558 (Nov 2008)
Elongation factor Tu (EF-Tu), encoded by tuf genes, carries aminoacyl-tRNA to the ribosome during protein synthesis. Duplicated tuf genes (tufA and tufB), which are commonly found in enterobacterial species, usually coevolve via gene conversion and are very similar to one another. However, sequence analysis of tuf genes in our laboratory has revealed highly divergent copies in 72 strains spanning the genus Yersinia (representing 12 Yersinia species). The levels of intragenomic divergence between tufA and tufB sequences ranged from 8.3 to 16.2% for the genus Yersinia, which is significantly greater than the 0.0 to 3.6% divergence observed for other enterobacterial genera. We further explored tuf gene evolution in Yersinia and other Enterobacteriaceae by performing directed sequencing and phylogenetic analyses. Phylogenetic trees constructed using concatenated tufA and tufB sequences revealed a monophyletic genus Yersinia in the family Enterobacteriaceae. Moreover, Yersinia strains form clades within the genus that mostly correlate with their phenotypic and genetic classifications. These genetic analyses revealed an unusual divergence between Yersinia tufA and tufB sequences, a feature unique among sequenced Enterobacteriaceae and indicative of a genus-wide loss of gene conversion. Furthermore, they provided valuable phylogenetic information for possible reclassification and identification of Yersinia species.