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Protein Sci. 2012 Aug;21(8):1172-84. doi: 10.1002/pro.2105. Epub 2012 Jul 6.

Cysteine-rich domains related to Frizzled receptors and Hedgehog-interacting proteins.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas 75390, USA.


Frizzled and Smoothened are homologous seven-transmembrane proteins functioning in the Wnt and Hedgehog signaling pathways, respectively. They harbor an extracellular cysteine-rich domain (FZ-CRD), a mobile evolutionary unit that has been found in a number of other metazoan proteins and Frizzled-like proteins in Dictyostelium. Domains distantly related to FZ-CRDs, in Hedgehog-interacting proteins (HHIPs), folate receptors and riboflavin-binding proteins (FRBPs), and Niemann-Pick Type C1 proteins (NPC1s), referred to as HFN-CRDs, exhibit similar structures and disulfide connectivity patterns compared with FZ-CRDs. We used computational analyses to expand the homologous set of FZ-CRDs and HFN-CRDs, providing a better understanding of their evolution and classification. First, FZ-CRD-containing proteins with various domain compositions were identified in several major eukaryotic lineages including plants and Chromalveolata, revealing a wider phylogenetic distribution of FZ-CRDs than previously recognized. Second, two new and distinct groups of highly divergent FZ-CRDs were found by sensitive similarity searches. One of them is present in the calcium channel component Mid1 in fungi and the uncharacterized FAM155 proteins in metazoans. Members of the other new FZ-CRD group occur in the metazoan-specific RECK (reversion-inducing-cysteine-rich protein with Kazal motifs) proteins that are putative tumor suppressors acting as inhibitors of matrix metalloproteases. Finally, sequence and three-dimensional structural comparisons helped us uncover a divergent HFN-CRD in glypicans, which are important morphogen-binding heparan sulfate proteoglycans. Such a finding reinforces the evolutionary ties between the Wnt and Hedgehog signaling pathways and underscores the importance of gene duplications in creating essential signaling components in metazoan evolution.

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