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Plant Physiol. 2005 Sep;139(1):287-95. Epub 2005 Aug 19.

A novel plant major intrinsic protein in Physcomitrella patens most similar to bacterial glycerol channels.

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  • 1Department of Plant Biochemistry, Centre for Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Lund University, Sweden.


A gene encoding a novel fifth type of major intrinsic protein (MIP) in plants has been identified in the moss Physcomitrella patens. Phylogenetic analyses show that this protein, GlpF-like intrinsic protein (GIP1;1), is closely related to a subclass of glycerol transporters in bacteria that in addition to glycerol are highly permeable to water. A likely explanation of the occurrence of this bacterial-like MIP in P. patens is horizontal gene transfer. The expressed P. patens GIP1;1 gene contains five introns and encodes a unique C-loop extension of approximately 110 amino acid residues that has no obvious similarity with any other known protein. Based on alignments and structural comparisons with other MIPs, GIP1;1 is suggested to have retained the permeability for glycerol but not for water. Studies on heterologously expressed GIP1;1 in Xenopus laevis oocytes confirm the predicted substrate specificity. Interestingly, proteins of one of the plant-specific subgroups of MIPs, the NOD26-like intrinsic proteins, are also facilitating the transport of glycerol and have previously been suggested to have evolved from a horizontally transferred bacterial gene. Further studies on localization and searches for GIP1;1 homologs in other plants will clarify the function and significance of this new plant MIP.

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