Yeast Qri7 and human OSGEPL are members of the orthologous Kae1(OSGEP)/YgjD protein family, the last class of universally conserved proteins without assigned function. Phylogenetic analyses indicate that the eukaryotic Qri7(OSGEPL) proteins originated from bacterial YgjD proteins. We have recently shown that the archaeal Kae1 protein is a DNA-binding protein that exhibits apurinic endonuclease activity in vitro. We show here that the Qri7/OSGEPL proteins localize in mitochondria and are involved in mitochondrial genome maintenance in two model eukaryotic organisms, Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Caenorhabditis elegans. Furthermore, S. cerevisiae Qri7 complements the loss of the bacterial YgjD protein in Escherichia coli, suggesting that Qri7/OSGEPL and YgjD proteins have retained similar functions in modern organisms. We suggest to name members of the Kae1(OSGEP)/YgjD family UGMP, for Universal Genome Maintenance Proteins.
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