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Comp Biochem Physiol Part D Genomics Proteomics. 2008 Mar;3(1):96-107. doi: 10.1016/j.cbd.2007.11.002. Epub 2007 Dec 3.

Molecular evolution of the vertebrate hexokinase gene family: Identification of a conserved fifth vertebrate hexokinase gene.

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  • 1Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, Banting and Best Diabetes Centre, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.


Hexokinases (HK) phosphorylate sugar immediately upon its entry into cells allowing these sugars to be metabolized. A total of four hexokinases have been characterized in a diversity of vertebrates-HKI, HKII, HKIII, and HKIV. HKIV is often called glucokinase (GCK) and has half the molecular weight of the other hexokinases, as it only has one hexokinase domain, while other vertebrate HKs have two. Differing hypothesis has been proposed to explain the diversification of the hexokinase gene family. We used a genomic approach to characterize hexokinase genes in a diverse array of vertebrate species and close relatives. Surprisingly we identified a fifth hexokinase-like gene, HKDC1 that exists and is expressed in diverse vertebrates. Analysis of the amino acid sequence of HKDC1 suggests that it may function as a hexokinase. To understand the evolution of the vertebrate hexokinase gene family we established a phylogeny of the hexokinase domain in all of the vertebrate hexokinase genes, as well as hexokinase genes from close relatives of the vertebrates. Our phylogeny demonstrates that duplication of the hexokinase domain, yielding a HK with two hexokinase domains, occurred prior to the diversification of the hexokinase gene family. We also establish that GCK evolved from a two hexokinase domain-containing gene, but has lost its N-terminal hexokinase domain. We also show that parallel changes in enzymatic function of HKI and HKIII have occurred.

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