Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 18579552
Mol. Biol. Evol. 2008 Sep;25(9):1931-42
Oxygen is not only one of life’s essential elements but also a source of protein damage, mutagenesis, and ageing. Many proteome adaptations have been proposed to tackle such stresses and we assessed them using comparative genomics in a phylogenetic context. First, we find that aerobiosis is a trait with important phylogenetic inertia but that oxygen content in proteins is not. Instead, oxygen content is close to the expected values given the nucleotide composition. Accordingly, we find no evidence of oxygen being a scarce resource for protein synthesis even among anaerobes. Second, we searched for counterselection of amino acids more prone to oxidation among aerobes. Only cysteine follows the expected trend, whereas tryptophan follows the inverse one. When analyzing composition in the context of protein structures and residue accessibility, we find that all oxidable residues are avoided at the surface of proteins. Yet, there is no difference between aerobes and anaerobes in this respect, and the effect might be explained by the hydrophobicity of these residues. Third, we revisited the hypothesis that atmospheric enrichment in molecular oxygen led to the development of the communication capabilities of eukaryotes. With a larger data set and adequate controls, we confirm the trend of longer oxygen-rich outer domains in transmembrane proteins of eukaryotes. Yet, we find no significant association between oxygen concentration in the environment and this trait within prokaryotes, suggesting that this difference is clade specific and independent of oxygen availability. We find that genes involved in cellular responses to oxygen are much more frequent among aerobes, and we suggest that they erase most expected differences in terms of proteome composition between organisms facing high and low oxygen concentrations.