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Protein Sci. 2010 Jan;19(1):124-30. doi: 10.1002/pro.297.

A galaxy of folds.

Author information

1
Department of Protein Evolution, Max-Planck-Institute for Developmental Biology, Tübingen 72076, Germany.

Abstract

Many protein classification systems capture homologous relationships by grouping domains into families and superfamilies on the basis of sequence similarity. Superfamilies with similar 3D structures are further grouped into folds. In the absence of discernable sequence similarity, these structural similarities were long thought to have originated independently, by convergent evolution. However, the growth of databases and advances in sequence comparison methods have led to the discovery of many distant evolutionary relationships that transcend the boundaries of superfamilies and folds. To investigate the contributions of convergent versus divergent evolution in the origin of protein folds, we clustered representative domains of known structure by their sequence similarity, treating them as point masses in a virtual 2D space which attract or repel each other depending on their pairwise sequence similarities. As expected, families in the same superfamily form tight clusters. But often, superfamilies of the same fold are linked with each other, suggesting that the entire fold evolved from an ancient prototype. Strikingly, some links connect superfamilies with different folds. They arise from modular peptide fragments of between 20 and 40 residues that co-occur in the connected folds in disparate structural contexts. These may be descendants of an ancestral pool of peptide modules that evolved as cofactors in the RNA world and from which the first folded proteins arose by amplification and recombination. Our galaxy of folds summarizes, in a single image, most known and many yet undescribed homologous relationships between protein superfamilies, providing new insights into the evolution of protein domains.

PMID:
19937658
PMCID:
PMC2817847
DOI:
10.1002/pro.297
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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