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PLoS One. 2013 Aug 12;8(8):e70582. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0070582. eCollection 2013.

Alternative splice variants in TIM barrel proteins from human genome correlate with the structural and evolutionary modularity of this versatile protein fold.

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  • 1Instituto Nacional de Medicina Genómica (INMEGEN), México City, México. aochoa@inmegen.gob.mx

Abstract

After the surprisingly low number of genes identified in the human genome, alternative splicing emerged as a major mechanism to generate protein diversity in higher eukaryotes. However, it is still not known if its prevalence along the genome evolution has contributed to the overall functional protein diversity or if it simply reflects splicing noise. The (βα)8 barrel or TIM barrel is one of the most frequent, versatile, and ancient fold encountered among enzymes. Here, we analyze the structural modifications present in TIM barrel proteins from the human genome product of alternative splicing events. We found that 87% of all splicing events involved deletions; most of these events resulted in protein fragments that corresponded to the (βα)2, (βα)4, (βα)5, (βα)6, and (βα)7 subdomains of TIM barrels. Because approximately 7% of all the splicing events involved internal β-strand substitutions, we decided, based on the genomic data, to design β-strand and α-helix substitutions in a well-studied TIM barrel enzyme. The biochemical characterization of one of the chimeric variants suggests that some of the splice variants in the human genome with β-strand substitutions may be evolving novel functions via either the oligomeric state or substrate specificity. We provide results of how the splice variants represent subdomains that correlate with the independently folding and evolving structural units previously reported. This work is the first to observe a link between the structural features of the barrel and a recurrent genetic mechanism. Our results suggest that it is reasonable to expect that a sizeable fraction of splice variants found in the human genome represent structurally viable functional proteins. Our data provide additional support for the hypothesis of the origin of the TIM barrel fold through the assembly of smaller subdomains. We suggest a model of how nature explores new proteins through alternative splicing as a mechanism to diversify the proteins encoded in the human genome.

PMID:
23950966
PMCID:
PMC3741200
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0070582
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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