Structure of Ribosomal Subunits of M. vannielii: Ribosomal Morphology as a Phylogenetic Marker

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Science  14 Mar 1986:
Vol. 231, Issue 4743, pp. 1306-1308
DOI: 10.1126/science.231.4743.1306


On the basis of ribosomal morphology, it has been proposed that the sulfur-metabolizing archaebacteria constitute a group (the eocytes) with a phylogenetic importance equal to that of the eubacteria, archaebacteria, and eukaryotes. It has been further proposed that eocytes should be given kingdom status. Ribosomal subunits from the methanogenic archaebacterium Methanococcus vannielii were examined by electron microscopy, and their structures were compared to those of other archaebacterial, eubacterial, and eukaryotic ribosomes. 30S subunits from M. vannielii showed the elongated contour and the one-third to two-thirds partition characteristic of such subunits. In addition, the angled asymmetric projections of those subunits showed a squarish base and a beak on the head. 50S subunits from M. vannielii were seen in both crown and kidney views. In crown views, the L1 protuberance was frequently pronounced and split; an incision below this protuberance and a protrusion at the base of the particle were also observed. Although previous studies suggested that certain of these structural features were found exclusively in ribosomes from sulfur-metabolizing archaebacteria, these new results indicate that such features also occur in ribosomes from a typical methanogenic archaebacterium and thus may not be reliable phylogenetic markers.