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Mol Microbiol. 2003 Jun;48(5):1145-56.

Tracing pathways of transport protein evolution.

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Division of Biological Sciences, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla 92093-0116, USA.


We have conducted bioinformatic analyses of integral membrane transport proteins belonging to dozens of families. These families rarely include proteins that function in a capacity other than transport. Many transporters have arisen by intragenic duplication, triplication and quadruplication events, in which the numbers of transmembrane alpha-helical hydrophobic segments (TMSs) have increased. The elements multiplied may encode two, three, four, five, six, 10 or 12 TMSs and gave rise to proteins with four, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 12, 20, 24 and 30 TMSs. Gene fusion, splicing, deletion and insertion events have also contributed to protein topological diversity. Amino acid substitutions have allowed membrane-embedded domains to become hydrophilic domains and vice versa. Some evidence suggests that amino acid substitutions occurring over evolutionary time may in some cases have drastically altered protein topology. The results summarized in this microreview establish the independent origins of many transporter families and allow postulation of the specific pathways taken for their appearance.

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