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J Mol Biol. 1995 Feb 17;246(2):273-83.

Alignment/phylogeny of the papain superfamily of cysteine proteases.

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Pharmaceutical Biotechnology Sector, Biotechnology Research Institute, National Research Council of Canada, Montréal, Québec.


An alignment/phylogeny of the papain superfamily of cysteine proteases was created using an initial structure-based alignment followed by successive iterations of sequence alignment and phylogenetic inference. The iterative approach resulted in significant improvements in the alignment/phylogeny. There were three groups of cysteine proteases that were distantly related and which could be aligned against each other only in the active site regions: the papain group, which included such stereotypical cysteine proteases as cathepsins B, C, H, L and S; and the bleomycin hydrolase and calpain groups. There was one bacterial sequence in each of the bleomycin hydrolase and calpain groups. The former probably arose by lateral gene transfer, the latter possibly by direct evolution from an ancestral protease predating the eukaryote/prokaryote divergence. The phylogeny of the papain group indicated that many families diverged almost simultaneously early during eukaryotic evolution. In mammals there are at least 12 distinct families of cysteine proteases, possibly many more, including at least two as yet uncharacterized enzymes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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