Origins and evolution of the recA/RAD51 gene family: evidence for ancient gene duplication and endosymbiotic gene transfer

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Jul 5;103(27):10328-10333. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0604232103. Epub 2006 Jun 23.


The bacterial recA gene and its eukaryotic homolog RAD51 are important for DNA repair, homologous recombination, and genome stability. Members of the recA/RAD51 family have functions that have differentiated during evolution. However, the evolutionary history and relationships of these members remains unclear. Homolog searches in prokaryotes and eukaryotes indicated that most eubacteria contain only one recA. However, many archaeal species have two recA/RAD51 homologs (RADA and RADB), and eukaryotes possess multiple members (RAD51, RAD51B, RAD51C, RAD51D, DMC1, XRCC2, XRCC3, and recA). Phylogenetic analyses indicated that the recA/RAD51 family can be divided into three subfamilies: (i) RADalpha, with highly conserved functions; (ii) RADbeta, with relatively divergent functions; and (iii) recA, functioning in eubacteria and eukaryotic organelles. The RADalpha and RADbeta subfamilies each contain archaeal and eukaryotic members, suggesting that a gene duplication occurred before the archaea/eukaryote split. In the RADalpha subfamily, eukaryotic RAD51 and DMC1 genes formed two separate monophyletic groups when archaeal RADA genes were used as an outgroup. This result suggests that another duplication event occurred in the early stage of eukaryotic evolution, producing the DMC1 clade with meiosis-specific genes. The RADbeta subfamily has a basal archaeal clade and five eukaryotic clades, suggesting that four eukaryotic duplication events occurred before animals and plants diverged. The eukaryotic recA genes were detected in plants and protists and showed strikingly high levels of sequence similarity to recA genes from proteobacteria or cyanobacteria. These results suggest that endosymbiotic transfer of recA genes occurred from mitochondria and chloroplasts to nuclear genomes of ancestral eukaryotes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Endocytosis
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Duplication*
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Multigene Family / genetics*
  • Rad51 Recombinase / classification
  • Rad51 Recombinase / genetics*
  • Rad51 Recombinase / metabolism
  • Rec A Recombinases / classification
  • Rec A Recombinases / genetics*
  • Rec A Recombinases / metabolism
  • Symbiosis / genetics
  • Time Factors


  • Rad51 Recombinase
  • Rec A Recombinases