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Journal Article

Multiple self-splicing introns in the 16S rRNA genes of giant sulfur bacteria

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Salman,  V.
Department of Microbiology, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Max Planck Society;

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Amann,  R.
Department of Molecular Ecology, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Max Planck Society;

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Schulz-Vogt,  H. N.
Ecophysiology Group, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Salman, V., Amann, R., Shub, D. A., & Schulz-Vogt, H. N. (2012). Multiple self-splicing introns in the 16S rRNA genes of giant sulfur bacteria. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109(11), 4203-4208.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0001-C873-C
Abstract
The gene encoding the small subunit rRNA serves as a prominent tool for the phylogenetic analysis and classification of Bacteria and Archaea owing to its high degree of conservation and its fundamental function in living organisms. Here we show that the 16S rRNA genes of not-yet-cultivated large sulfur bacteria, among them the largest known bacterium Thiomargarita namibiensis, regularly contain numerous self-splicing introns of variable length. The 16S rRNA genes can thus be enlarged to up to 3.5 kb. Remarkably, introns have never been identified in bacterial 16S rRNA genes before, although they are the most frequently sequenced genes today. This may be caused in part by a bias during the PCR amplification step that discriminates against longer homologs, as we show experimentally. Such length heterogeneity of 16S rRNA genes has so far never been considered when constructing 16S rRNA-based clone libraries, even though an elongation of rRNA genes due to intervening sequences has been reported previously. The detection of elongated 16S rRNA genes has profound implications for common methods in molecular ecology and may cause systematic biases in several techniques. In this study, catalyzed reporter deposition–fluorescence in situ hybridization on both ribosomes and rRNA precursor molecules as well as in vitro splicing experiments were performed and confirmed self-splicing of the introns. Accordingly, the introns do not inhibit the formation of functional ribosomes.