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Soc Gen Physiol Ser. 1994;49:141-57.

Molecular evolution of the myosin superfamily: application of phylogenetic techniques to cell biological questions.

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Department of Biochemistry, Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine, Stanford University Medical School, California 94305.


We have used distance matrix and maximum parsimony methods to study the evolutionary relationships between members of the myosin superfamily of molecular motors. Amino acid sequences of the conserved core of the motor region were used in the analysis. Our results show that myosins can be divided into at least three main classes, with two types of unconventional myosin being no more related to each other than they are to conventional myosin. Myosins have traditionally been classified as conventional or unconventional, with many of the unconventional myosin proteins thought to be distributed in a narrow range of organisms. We find that members of all three of these main classes are likely to be present in most (or all) eukaryotes. Three proteins do not cluster within the three main groups and may each represent additional classes. The structure of the trees suggests that these ungrouped proteins and some of the subclasses of the main classes are also likely to be widely distributed, implying that most eukaryotic cells contain many different myosin proteins. The groupings derived from phylogenetic analysis of myosin head sequences agree strongly with those based on tail structure, developmental expression, and (where available) enzymology, suggesting that specific head sequences have been tightly coupled to specific tail sequences throughout evolution. Analysis of the relationships within each class has interesting implications. For example, smooth muscle myosin and striated muscle myosin seem to have independently evolved from nonmuscle myosin. Furthermore, brush border myosin I, a type of protein initially thought to be specific to specialized metazoan tissues, probably has relatives that are much more broadly distributed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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