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Mol Biol Evol. 2000 Aug;17(8):1232-9.

Relationship between the occurrence of cysteine in proteins and the complexity of organisms.

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Department of Clinical Chemistry, Faculty of Medicine, Pécs University, Pécs, Hungary.


The occurrence and relative positions of cysteine residues were investigated in proteins of various species. Considering random mathematical occurrence for an amino acid coded by two codons (3. 28%), cysteine is underrepresented in all organisms investigated. Representation of cysteine appears to correlate positively with the complexity of the organism, ranging between 2.26% in mammals and 0. 5% in some members of the Archeabacteria order. This observation, together with the results obtained from comparison of cysteine content of various ribosomal proteins, indicates that evolution takes advantage of increased use of cysteine residues. In all organisms studied except plants, two cysteines are frequently found two amino acid residues apart (C-(X)(2)-C motif). Such a motif is known to be present in a variety of metal-binding proteins and oxidoreductases. Remarkably, more than 21% of all of cysteines were found within the C-(X)(2)-C motifs in ARCHEA.: This observation may indicate that cysteine appeared in ancient metal-binding proteins first and was introduced into other proteins later.

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