An unusually high proportion of proteins encoded in Chlamydia genomes are most similar to plant proteins, leading to proposals that a Chlamydia ancestor obtained genes from a plant or plant-like host organism by horizontal gene transfer. However, during an analysis of bacterial-eukaryotic protein similarities, we found that the vast majority of plant-like sequences in Chlamydia are most similar to plant proteins that are targeted to the chloroplast, an organelle derived from a cyanobacterium. We present further evidence suggesting that plant-like genes in Chlamydia, and other Chlamydiaceae, are likely a reflection of an unappreciated evolutionary relationship between the Chlamydiaceae and the cyanobacteria-chloroplast lineage. Further analyses of bacterial and eukaryotic genomes indicates the importance of evaluating organellar ancestry of eukaryotic proteins when identifying bacteria-eukaryote homologs or horizontal gene transfer and supports the proposal that Chlamydiaceae, which are obligate intracellular bacterial pathogens of animals, are not likely exchanging DNA with their hosts.
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