Genome Phylogenies Indicate a Meaningful alpha-Proteobacterial Phylogeny and Support A Grouping of the Mitochondria With the Rickettsiales.
Placement of the mitochondrial branch on the tree of life has been problematic. Sparse sampling, the uncertainty of how lateral gene transfer might overwrite phylogenetic signals and the uncertainty of phylogenetic inference have all contributed to the issue. Here we address this issue using a supertree approach and completed genomic sequences. We first determine that a sensible alpha-proteobacterial phylogenetic tree exists and that it can confidently be inferred using orthologous genes. We show that congruence across these orthologous gene trees is significantly better than might be expected by random chance. There is some evidence of horizontal gene transfer within the alpha-proteobacteria, but it appears to be restricted to a minority of genes ( approximately 23%) most of whom ( approximately 74%) can be categorized as operational. This means that placement of the mitochondrion should not be excessively hampered by inter-species gene transfer. We then show that there is a consistently strong signal for placement of the mitochondrion on this tree and that this placement is relatively insensitive to methodological approach or dataset. A concatenated alignment was created consisting of 15 mitochondrion-encoded proteins that are unlikely to have undergone any lateral gene transfer in the timeline under consideration. This alignment infers that the sister-group of the mitochondria, for the taxa that have been sampled, is the order Rickettsiales.