Duplication history and molecular evolution of the rbcS multigene family in angiosperms

J Exp Bot. 2019 Nov 18;70(21):6127-6139. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erz363.


Ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (RuBisCO) is considered to be the main enzyme determining the rate of photosynthesis. The small subunit of the protein, encoded by the rbcS gene, has been shown to influence the catalytic efficiency, CO2 specificity, assembly, activity, and stability of RuBisCO. However, the evolution of the rbcS gene remains poorly studied. We inferred the phylogenetic tree of the rbcS gene in angiosperms using the nucleotide sequences and found that it is composed of two lineages that may have existed before the divergence of land plants. Although almost all species sampled carry at least one copy of lineage 1, genes of lineage 2 were lost in most angiosperm species. We found the specific residues that have undergone positive selection during the evolution of the rbcS gene. We detected intensive coevolution between each rbcS gene copy and the rbcL gene encoding the large subunit of RuBisCO. We tested the role played by each rbcS gene copy on the stability of the RuBisCO protein through homology modelling. Our results showed that this evolutionary constraint could limit the level of divergence seen in the rbcS gene, which leads to the similarity among the rbcS gene copies of lineage 1 within species.

Keywords: rbcS; Coevolution; RuBisCO; duplication; gene copies; homology modelling; molecular evolution; multigene family; photosynthesis; positive selection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Codon / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Conversion
  • Gene Duplication*
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Magnoliopsida / genetics*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Multigene Family*
  • Phylogeny
  • Plant Proteins / chemistry
  • Plant Proteins / genetics*
  • Protein Stability
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Spinacia oleracea / metabolism
  • Thermodynamics


  • Codon
  • Plant Proteins