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1.  Shedding light on the expansion and diversification of the Cdc48 protein family during the rise of the eukaryotic cell 
A defining feature of eukaryotic cells is the presence of various distinct membrane-bound compartments with different metabolic roles. Material exchange between most compartments occurs via a sophisticated vesicle trafficking system. This intricate cellular architecture of eukaryotes appears to have emerged suddenly, about 2 billion years ago, from much less complex ancestors. How the eukaryotic cell acquired its internal complexity is poorly understood, partly because no prokaryotic precursors have been found for many key factors involved in compartmentalization. One exception is the Cdc48 protein family, which consists of several distinct classical ATPases associated with various cellular activities (AAA+) proteins with two consecutive AAA domains.
Here, we have classified the Cdc48 family through iterative use of hidden Markov models and tree building. We found only one type, Cdc48, in prokaryotes, although a set of eight diverged members that function at distinct subcellular compartments were retrieved from eukaryotes and were probably present in the last eukaryotic common ancestor (LECA). Pronounced changes in sequence and domain structure during the radiation into the LECA set are delineated. Moreover, our analysis brings to light lineage-specific losses and duplications that often reflect important biological changes. Remarkably, we also found evidence for internal duplications within the LECA set that probably occurred during the rise of the eukaryotic cell.
Our analysis corroborates the idea that the diversification of the Cdc48 family is closely intertwined with the development of the compartments of the eukaryotic cell.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12862-016-0790-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC5070193  PMID: 27756227
Organelles; Compartmentalization; Eukaryogenesis; LECA; SELMA; Vesicle trafficking; AAA+ proteins; NSF
2.  Untangling the evolution of Rab G proteins: implications of a comprehensive genomic analysis 
BMC Biology  2012;10:71.
Membrane-bound organelles are a defining feature of eukaryotic cells, and play a central role in most of their fundamental processes. The Rab G proteins are the single largest family of proteins that participate in the traffic between organelles, with 66 Rabs encoded in the human genome. Rabs direct the organelle-specific recruitment of vesicle tethering factors, motor proteins, and regulators of membrane traffic. Each organelle or vesicle class is typically associated with one or more Rab, with the Rabs present in a particular cell reflecting that cell's complement of organelles and trafficking routes.
Through iterative use of hidden Markov models and tree building, we classified Rabs across the eukaryotic kingdom to provide the most comprehensive view of Rab evolution obtained to date. A strikingly large repertoire of at least 20 Rabs appears to have been present in the last eukaryotic common ancestor (LECA), consistent with the 'complexity early' view of eukaryotic evolution. We were able to place these Rabs into six supergroups, giving a deep view into eukaryotic prehistory.
Tracing the fate of the LECA Rabs revealed extensive losses with many extant eukaryotes having fewer Rabs, and none having the full complement. We found that other Rabs have expanded and diversified, including a large expansion at the dawn of metazoans, which could be followed to provide an account of the evolutionary history of all human Rabs. Some Rab changes could be correlated with differences in cellular organization, and the relative lack of variation in other families of membrane-traffic proteins suggests that it is the changes in Rabs that primarily underlies the variation in organelles between species and cell types.
PMCID: PMC3425129  PMID: 22873208
Organelles; G proteins; humans; last eukaryotic common ancestor
3.  Phylogeny of the SNARE vesicle fusion machinery yields insights into the conservation of the secretory pathway in fungi 
In eukaryotic cells, directional transport between different compartments of the endomembrane system is mediated by vesicles that bud from a donor organelle and then fuse with an acceptor organelle. A family of integral membrane proteins, termed soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive factor attachment receptor (SNARE) proteins, constitute the key machineries of these different membrane fusion events. Over the past 30 years, the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae has served as a powerful model organism for studying the organization of the secretory and endocytic pathways, and a few years ago, its entire set of SNAREs was compiled.
Here, we make use of the increasing amount of genomic data to investigate the history of the SNARE family during fungi evolution. Moreover, since different SNARE family members are thought to demarcate different organelles and vesicles, this approach allowed us to compare the organization of the endomembrane systems of yeast and animal cells. Our data corroborate the notion that fungi generally encompass a relatively simple set of SNARE proteins, mostly comprising the SNAREs of the proto-eukaryotic cell. However, all fungi contain a novel soluble SNARE protein, Vam7, which carries an N-terminal PX-domain that acts as a phosphoinositide binding module. In addition, the points in fungal evolution, at which lineage-specific duplications and diversifications occurred, could be determined. For instance, the endosomal syntaxins Pep12 and Vam3 arose from a gene duplication that occurred within the Saccharomycotina clade.
Although the SNARE repertoire of baker's yeast is highly conserved, our analysis reveals that it is more deviated than the ones of basal fungi. This highlights that the trafficking pathways of baker's yeast are not only different to those in animal cells but also are somewhat different to those of many other fungi.
PMCID: PMC2639358  PMID: 19166604

Results 1-3 (3)