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Mol Biol Evol. 2004 Apr;21(4):625-31. Epub 2004 Jan 22.

Evolution of the multifunctional protein tyrosine phosphatase family.

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  • 1Computational Molecular Biology, Max-Planck-Institute for Molecular Genetics, Berlin, Germany.


The protein tyrosine phosphatase (PTP) family plays a central role in signal transduction pathways by controlling the phosphorylation state of serine, threonine, and tyrosine residues. PTPs can be divided into dual specificity phosphatases and the classical PTPs, which can comprise of one or two phosphatase domains. We studied amino acid substitutions at functional sites in the phosphatase domain and identified putative noncatalytic phosphatase domains in all subclasses of the PTP family. The presence of inactive phosphatase domains in all subclasses indicates that they were invented multiple times in evolution. Depending on the domain composition, loss of catalytic activity can result in different consequences for the function of the protein. Inactive single-domain phosphatases can still specifically bind substrate and protect it from dephosphorylation by other phosphatases. The inactive domains of tandem phosphatases can be further subdivided. The first class is more conserved, still able to bind phosphorylated tyrosine residues and might recruit multiphosphorylated substrates for the adjacent active domain. The second has accumulated several variable amino acid substitutions in the catalytic center, indicating a complete loss of tyrosine-binding capabilities. To study the impact of substitutions in the catalytic center to the evolution of the whole domain, we examined the evolutionary rates for each individual site and compared them between the classes. This analysis revealed a release of evolutionary constraint for multiple sites surrounding the catalytic center only in the second class, emphasizing its difference in function compared with the first class. Furthermore, we found a region of higher conservation common to both domain classes, suggesting a new regulatory center. We discuss the influence of evolutionary forces on the development of the phosphatase domain, which has led to additional functions, such as the specific protection of phosphorylated tyrosine residues, substrate recruitment, and regulation of the catalytic activity of adjacent domains.

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