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J Mol Biol. 2008 May 2;378(3):596-606. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2008.03.005. Epub 2008 Mar 12.

Evolution of antiparallel two-domain membrane proteins: tracing multiple gene duplication events in the DUF606 family.

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  • 1Molecular Microbiology, Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands. j.s.lolkema@rug.nl


X-ray crystallography has revealed that many integral membrane proteins consist of two domains with a similar fold but opposite (antiparallel) orientation in the membrane. The proteins are believed to have evolved by gene duplication and gene fusion events from a dual topology ancestral membrane protein, that adapted both orientations in the membrane and formed antiparallel homodimers. Here, we present a detailed analysis of the DUF606 family of bacterial membrane proteins that contains the entire collection of intermediate states of such an evolutionary pathway: single genes that would code for dual topology homodimeric proteins, paired genes coding for homologous proteins with a fixed but opposite orientation in the membrane that would form heterodimers, and fused genes that encode antiparallel two-domain fusion proteins. Two types of paired genes can be discriminated corresponding to the order in which the genes coding for the two oppositely oriented proteins occur in the operon. On the protein level, the heterodimers resulting from the two types of gene pairs are indistinguishable. In contrast, two types of fused genes corresponding to the two possible orders in which the oppositely oriented domains are present in the encoded proteins, do result in discernible types of proteins. The large number of genetic and protein states in the DUF606 family allowed for a detailed phylogenic analysis that revealed a total of nine independent duplication events in the DUF606 family, five of which resulted in paired genes, and four resulted in fused genes. Noticeably, there was no evidence for a sequential mechanism in which fusions evolve from a pair of genes. Rather, an evolutionary mechanism is proposed by which antiparallel two-domain proteins are the direct result of a gene duplication event. Combining the phylogeny of proteins and hosting microorganisms allowed for a reconstruction of the evolutionary pathway.

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