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Curr Opin Struct Biol. 2005 Jun;15(3):290-301.

Structural divergence and distant relationships in proteins: evolution of the globins.

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Department of Chemistry, The Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences: Genomics, Proteomics and Bioinformatics Institute, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA.


The globin family has long been known from studies of approximately 150-residue proteins such as vertebrate myoglobins and haemoglobins. Recently, this family has been enriched by the investigation of the sequences and structures of truncated globins, which have the same basic topology but are approximately 30 residues shorter and exhibit functions other than the familiar one of binding diatomic ligands. The divergence of protein sequences, structures and functions reveals Nature's exploration of the potential inherent in a folding pattern, that is, the topology of the native structure. The observation of what remains constant and what varies during the evolution of a protein family reveals essential features of structure and function. Study of proteins with a wide range of divergence can therefore sharpen our understanding of how different amino acid sequences can determine similar three-dimensional structures. Globins have provided, and continue to provide, interesting material for such studies.

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