The glutamine synthetases of rhizobia: phylogenetics and evolutionary implications

Mol Biol Evol. 2000 Feb;17(2):309-19. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.molbev.a026311.


Glutamine synthetase exists in at least two related forms, GSI and GSII, the sequences of which have been used in evolutionary molecular clock studies. GSI has so far been found exclusively in bacteria, and GSII has been found predominantly in eukaryotes. To date, only a minority of bacteria, including rhizobia, have been shown to express both forms of GS. The sequences of equivalent internal fragments of the GSI and GSII genes for the type strains of 16 species of rhizobia have been determined and analyzed. The GSI and GSII data sets do not produce congruent phylogenies with either neighbor-joining or maximum-likelihood analyses. The GSI phylogeny is broadly congruent with the 16S rDNA phylogeny for the same bacteria; the GSII phylogeny is not. There are three striking rearrangements in the GSII phylograms, all of which might be explained by horizontal gene transfer to Bradyrhizobium (probably from Mesorhizobium), to Rhizobium galegae (from Rhizobium), and to Mesorhizobium huakuii (perhaps from Rhizobium). There is also evidence suggesting intrageneric DNA transfer within Mesorhizobium. Meta-analysis of both GS genes from the different genera of rhizobia and other reference organisms suggests that the divergence times of the different rhizobium genera predate the existence of legumes, their host plants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Glutamate-Ammonia Ligase / chemistry
  • Glutamate-Ammonia Ligase / genetics*
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny*
  • Rhizobiaceae / classification
  • Rhizobiaceae / enzymology
  • Rhizobiaceae / genetics*
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Time


  • Glutamate-Ammonia Ligase