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PLoS One. 2010 Oct 8;5(10):e13241. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0013241.

Comparative genomic evidence for a complete nuclear pore complex in the last eukaryotic common ancestor.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biology and Functional Genomics, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden.



The Nuclear Pore Complex (NPC) facilitates molecular trafficking between nucleus and cytoplasm and is an integral feature of the eukaryote cell. It exhibits eight-fold rotational symmetry and is comprised of approximately 30 nucleoporins (Nups) in different stoichiometries. Nups are broadly conserved between yeast, vertebrates and plants, but few have been identified among other major eukaryotic groups.


We screened for Nups across 60 eukaryote genomes and report that 19 Nups (spanning all major protein subcomplexes) are found in all eukaryote supergroups represented in our study (Opisthokonts, Amoebozoa, Viridiplantae, Chromalveolates and Excavates). Based on parsimony, between 23 and 26 of 31 Nups can be placed in LECA. Notably, they include central components of the anchoring system (Ndc1 and Gp210) indicating that the anchoring system did not evolve by convergence, as has previously been suggested. These results significantly extend earlier results and, importantly, unambiguously place a fully-fledged NPC in LECA. We also test the proposal that transmembrane Pom proteins in vertebrates and yeasts may account for their variant forms of mitosis (open mitoses in vertebrates, closed among yeasts). The distribution of homologues of vertebrate Pom121 and yeast Pom152 is not consistent with this suggestion, but the distribution of fungal Pom34 fits a scenario wherein it was integral to the evolution of closed mitosis in ascomycetes. We also report an updated screen for vesicle coating complexes, which share a common evolutionary origin with Nups, and can be traced back to LECA. Surprisingly, we find only three supergroup-level differences (one gain and two losses) between the constituents of COPI, COPII and Clathrin complexes.


Our results indicate that all major protein subcomplexes in the Nuclear Pore Complex are traceable to the Last Eukaryotic Common Ancestor (LECA). In contrast to previous screens, we demonstrate that our conclusions hold regardless of the position of the root of the eukaryote tree.

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