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Novel Proteorhodopsin variants from the Mediterranean and Red Seas


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Proteorhodopsins, ubiquitous retinylidene photoactive proton pumps, were recently found in the widespread uncultured SAR86 bacterial group in oceanic surface waters. To survey proteorhodopsin diversity, new degenerate sets of proteorhodopsin primers were designed based on a genomic proteorhodopsin gene sequence originating from an Antarctic fosmid library. New proteorhodopsin variants were identified in Red Sea samples that were most similar to the original green-light absorbing proteorhodopsins found in Monterey Bay California. Unlike green-absorbing proteorhodopsins however, these new variants contained a glutamine residue at position 105, the same site recently shown to control spectral tuning in naturally occurring proteorhodopsins. Different proteorhodopsin variants were also found in the Mediterranean Sea. These proteorhodopsins formed new and distinctive proteorhodopsin groups. Phylogenetic analyses show that some of the new variants were very different from previously characterized proteorhodopsins, and formed the deepest branching groups found so far among marine proteorhodopsins. The existence of these varied proteorhodopsin sequences suggests that this class of proteins has undergone substantial evolution. These variants could represent functionally divergent paralogous genes, derived from the same or similar species, or orthologous proteorhodopsins that are distributed amongst divergent planktonic microbial taxa.