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J Mol Evol. 2006 Mar;62(3):362-74. Epub 2006 Feb 21.

The hemocyanin from a living fossil, the cephalopod Nautilus pompilius: protein structure, gene organization, and evolution.

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  • 1Institute of Zoology, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany.


By electron microscopic and immunobiochemical analyses we have confirmed earlier evidence that Nautilus pompilius hemocyanin (NpH) is a ring-like decamer (M(r) = approximately 3.5 million), assembled from 10 identical copies of an approximately 350-kDa polypeptide. This subunit in turn is substructured into seven sequential covalently linked functional units of approximately 50 kDa each (FUs a-g). We have cloned and sequenced the cDNA encoding the complete polypeptide; it comprises 9198 bp and is subdivided into a 5' UTR of 58 bp, a 3' UTR of 365 bp, and an open reading frame for a signal peptide of 21 amino acids plus a polypeptide of 2903 amino acids (M(r) = 335,881). According to sequence alignments, the seven FUs of Nautilus hemocyanin directly correspond to the seven FU types of the previously sequenced hemocyanin "OdH" from the cephalopod Octopus dofleini. Thirteen potential N-glycosylation sites are distributed among the seven Nautilus hemocyanin FUs; the structural consequences of putatively attached glycans are discussed on the basis of the published X-ray structure for an Octopus dofleini and a Rapana thomasiana FU. Moreover, the complete gene structure of Nautilus hemocyanin was analyzed; it resembles that of Octopus hemocyanin with respect to linker introns but shows two internal introns that differ in position from the three internal introns of the Octopus hemocyanin gene. Multiple sequence alignments allowed calculation of a rather robust phylogenetic tree and a statistically firm molecular clock. This reveals that the last common ancestor of Nautilus and Octopus lived 415 +/- 24 million years ago, in close agreement with fossil records from the early Devonian.

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