BACKGROUND: The eukaryotic elongation factor EF-1alpha (also known as EF1A) catalyzes aminoacyl-tRNA binding by the ribosome during translation. Homologs of this essential protein occur in all domains of life, and it was previously thought to be ubiquitous in eukaryotes. Recently, however, a number of eukaryotes were found to lack EF-1alpha and instead encode a related protein called EFL (for EF-Like). EFL-encoding organisms are scattered widely across the tree of eukaryotes, and all have close relatives that encode EF-1alpha. This intriguingly complex distribution has been attributed to multiple lateral transfers because EFL's near mutual exclusivity with EF-1alpha makes an extended period of co-occurrence seem unlikely. However, differential loss may play a role in EFL evolution, and this possibility has been less widely discussed. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We have undertaken an EST- and PCR-based survey to determine the distribution of these two proteins in a previously under-sampled group, the Euglenozoa. EF-1alpha was found to be widespread and monophyletic, suggesting it is ancestral in this group. EFL was found in some species belonging to each of the three euglenozoan lineages, diplonemids, kinetoplastids, and euglenids. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Interestingly, the kinetoplastid EFL sequences are specifically related despite the fact that the lineages in which they are found are not sisters to one another, suggesting that EFL and EF-1alpha co-occurred in an early ancestor of kinetoplastids. This represents the strongest phylogenetic evidence to date that differential loss has contributed to the complex distribution of EFL and EF-1alpha.
Gile, G. H., Faktorová, D., Castlejohn, C. A., Burger, G., Lang, B. F., Farmer, M. A., … Keeling, P. J. (2009). Distribution and phylogeny of EFL and EF-1α in Euglenozoa Suggest ancestral co-occurrence followed by differential loss. PLoS ONE, 4(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0005162