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1.  A novel family of P-loop NTPases with an unusual phyletic distribution and transmembrane segments inserted within the NTPase domain 
Genome Biology  2004;5(5):R30.
This study characterizes the KAP protein family - a newly identified sub-group of the P-loop NTPases, which have transmembrane helices inserted into the P-loop NTPase domain. Their unusual phyletic distribution suggests KAP proteins were transferred from bacteria to animals by horizontal gene transfer.
Recent sequence-structure studies on P-loop-fold NTPases have substantially advanced the existing understanding of their evolution and functional diversity. These studies provide a framework for characterization of novel lineages within this fold and prediction of their functional properties.
Using sequence profile searches and homology-based structure prediction, we have identified a previously uncharacterized family of P-loop NTPases, which includes the neuronal membrane protein and receptor tyrosine kinase substrate Kidins220/ARMS, which is conserved in animals, the F-plasmid PifA protein involved in phage T7 exclusion, and several uncharacterized bacterial proteins. We refer to these (predicted) NTPases as the KAP family, after Kidins220/ARMS and PifA. The KAP family NTPases are sporadically distributed across a wide phylogenetic range in bacteria but among the eukaryotes are represented only in animals. Many of the prokaryotic KAP NTPases are encoded in plasmids and tend to undergo disruption to form pseudogenes. A unique feature of all eukaryotic and certain bacterial KAP NTPases is the presence of two or four transmembrane helices inserted into the P-loop NTPase domain. These transmembrane helices anchor KAP NTPases in the membrane such that the P-loop domain is located on the intracellular side. We show that the KAP family belongs to the same major division of the P-loop NTPase fold with the AAA+, ABC, RecA-like, VirD4-like, PilT-like, and AP/NACHT-like NTPase classes. In addition to the KAP family, we identified another small family of predicted bacterial NTPases, with two transmembrane helices inserted into the P-loop domain. This family is not specifically related to the KAP NTPases, suggesting independent acquisition of the transmembrane helices.
We predict that KAP family NTPases function principally in the NTP-dependent dynamics of protein complexes, especially those associated with the intracellular surface of cell membranes. Animal KAP NTPases, including Kidins220/ARMS, are likely to function as NTP-dependent regulators of the assembly of membrane-associated signaling complexes involved in neurite growth and development. One possible function of the prokaryotic KAP NTPases might be in the exclusion of selfish replicons, such as viruses, from the host cells. Phylogenetic analysis and phyletic patterns suggest that the common ancestor of the animals acquired a KAP NTPase via lateral transfer from bacteria. However, an earlier transfer into eukaryotes followed by multiple losses in several eukaryotic lineages cannot be ruled out.
PMCID: PMC416466  PMID: 15128444
2.  Evolutionary connection between the catalytic subunits of DNA-dependent RNA polymerases and eukaryotic RNA-dependent RNA polymerases and the origin of RNA polymerases 
The eukaryotic RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RDRP) is involved in the amplification of regulatory microRNAs during post-transcriptional gene silencing. This enzyme is highly conserved in most eukaryotes but is missing in archaea and bacteria. No evolutionary relationship between RDRP and other polymerases has been reported so far, hence the origin of this eukaryote-specific polymerase remains a mystery.
Using extensive sequence profile searches, we identified bacteriophage homologs of the eukaryotic RDRP. The comparison of the eukaryotic RDRP and their homologs from bacteriophages led to the delineation of the conserved portion of these enzymes, which is predicted to harbor the catalytic site. Further, detailed sequence comparison, aided by examination of the crystal structure of the DNA-dependent RNA polymerase (DDRP), showed that the RDRP and the β' subunit of DDRP (and its orthologs in archaea and eukaryotes) contain a conserved double-psi β-barrel (DPBB) domain. This DPBB domain contains the signature motif DbDGD (b is a bulky residue), which is conserved in all RDRPs and DDRPs and contributes to catalysis via a coordinated divalent cation. Apart from the DPBB domain, no similarity was detected between RDRP and DDRP, which leaves open two scenarios for the origin of RDRP: i) RDRP evolved at the onset of the evolution of eukaryotes via a duplication of the DDRP β' subunit followed by dramatic divergence that obliterated the sequence similarity outside the core catalytic domain and ii) the primordial RDRP, which consisted primarily of the DPBB domain, evolved from a common ancestor with the DDRP at a very early stage of evolution, during the RNA world era. The latter hypothesis implies that RDRP had been subsequently eliminated from cellular life forms and might have been reintroduced into the eukaryotic genomes through a bacteriophage. Sequence and structure analysis of the DDRP led to further insights into the evolution of RNA polymerases. In addition to the β' subunit, β subunit of DDRP also contains a DPBB domain, which is, however, distorted by large inserts and does not harbor a counterpart of the DbDGD motif. The DPBB domains of the two DDRP subunits together form the catalytic cleft, with the domain from the β' subunit supplying the metal-coordinating DbDGD motif and the one from the β subunit providing two lysine residues involved in catalysis. Given that the two DPBB domains of DDRP contribute completely different sets of active residues to the catalytic center, it is hypothesized that the ultimate ancestor of RNA polymerases functioned as a homodimer of a generic, RNA-binding DPBB domain. This ancestral protein probably did not have catalytic activity and served as a cofactor for a ribozyme RNA polymerase. Subsequent evolution of DDRP and RDRP involved accretion of distinct sets of additional domains. In the DDRPs, these included a RNA-binding Zn-ribbon, an AT-hook-like module and a sandwich-barrel hybrid motif (SBHM) domain. Further, lineage-specific accretion of SBHM domains and other, DDRP-specific domains is observed in bacterial DDRPs. In contrast, the orthologs of the β' subunit in archaea and eukaryotes contains a four-stranded α + β domain that is shared with the α-subunit of bacterial DDRP, eukaryotic DDRP subunit RBP11, translation factor eIF1 and type II topoisomerases. The additional domains of the RDRPs remain to be characterized.
Eukaryotic RNA-dependent RNA polymerases share the catalytic double-psi β-barrel domain, containing a signature metal-coordinating motif, with the universally conserved β' subunit of DNA-dependent RNA polymerases. Beyond this core catalytic domain, the two classes of RNA polymerases do not have common domains, suggesting early divergence from a common ancestor, with subsequent independent domain accretion. The β-subunit of DDRP contains another, highly diverged DPBB domain. The presence of two distinct DPBB domains in two subunits of DDRP is compatible with the hypothesis that the ultimate ancestor of RNA polymerases was a RNA-binding DPBB domain that had no catalytic activity but rather functioned as a homodimeric cofactor for a ribozyme polymerase.
PMCID: PMC151600  PMID: 12553882
3.  Classification and evolutionary history of the single-strand annealing proteins, RecT, Redβ, ERF and RAD52 
BMC Genomics  2002;3:8.
The DNA single-strand annealing proteins (SSAPs), such as RecT, Redβ, ERF and Rad52, function in RecA-dependent and RecA-independent DNA recombination pathways. Recently, they have been shown to form similar helical quaternary superstructures. However, despite the functional similarities between these diverse SSAPs, their actual evolutionary affinities are poorly understood.
Using sensitive computational sequence analysis, we show that the RecT and Redβ proteins, along with several other bacterial proteins, form a distinct superfamily. The ERF and Rad52 families show no direct evolutionary relationship to these proteins and define novel superfamilies of their own. We identify several previously unknown members of each of these superfamilies and also report, for the first time, bacterial and viral homologs of Rad52. Additionally, we predict the presence of aberrant HhH modules in RAD52 that are likely to be involved in DNA-binding. Using the contextual information obtained from the analysis of gene neighborhoods, we provide evidence of the interaction of the bacterial members of each of these SSAP superfamilies with a similar set of DNA repair/recombination protein. These include different nucleases or Holliday junction resolvases, the ABC ATPase SbcC and the single-strand-binding protein. We also present evidence of independent assembly of some of the predicted operons encoding SSAPs and in situ displacement of functionally similar genes.
There are three evolutionarily distinct superfamilies of SSAPs, namely the RecT/Redβ, ERF, and RAD52, that have different sequence conservation patterns and predicted folds. All these SSAPs appear to be primarily of bacteriophage origin and have been acquired by numerous phylogenetically distant cellular genomes. They generally occur in predicted operons encoding one or more of a set of conserved DNA recombination proteins that appear to be the principal functional partners of the SSAPs.
PMCID: PMC101383  PMID: 11914131
4.  Extensive domain shuffling in transcription regulators of DNA viruses and implications for the origin of fungal APSES transcription factors 
Genome Biology  2002;3(3):research0012.1-research0012.11.
Viral DNA-binding proteins have served as good models to study the biochemistry of transcription regulation and chromatin dynamics. Computational analysis of viral DNA-binding regulatory proteins and identification of their previously undetected homologs encoded by cellular genomes might lead to a better understanding of their function and evolution in both viral and cellular systems.
The phyletic range and the conserved DNA-binding domains of the viral regulatory proteins of the poxvirus D6R/N1R and baculoviral Bro protein families have not been previously defined. Using computational analysis, we show that the amino-terminal module of the D6R/N1R proteins defines a novel, conserved DNA-binding domain (the KilA-N domain) that is found in a wide range of proteins of large bacterial and eukaryotic DNA viruses. The KilA-N domain is suggested to be homologous to the fungal DNA-binding APSES domain. We provide evidence for the KilA-N and APSES domains sharing a common fold with the nucleic acid-binding modules of the LAGLIDADG nucleases and the amino-terminal domains of the tRNA endonuclease. The amino-terminal module of the Bro proteins is another, distinct DNA-binding domain (the Bro-N domain) that is present in proteins whose domain architectures parallel those of the KilA-N domain-containing proteins. A detailed analysis of the KilA-N and Bro-N domains and the associated domains points to extensive domain shuffling and lineage-specific gene family expansion within DNA virus genomes.
We define a large class of novel viral DNA-binding proteins and their cellular homologs and identify their domain architectures. On the basis of phyletic pattern analysis we present evidence for a probable viral origin of the fungus-specific cell-cycle regulatory transcription factors containing the APSES DNA-binding domain. We also demonstrate the extensive role of lineage-specific gene expansion and domain shuffling, within a limited set of approximately 24 domains, in the generation of the diversity of virus-specific regulatory proteins.
PMCID: PMC88810  PMID: 11897024
5.  Quod erat demonstrandum? The mystery of experimental validation of apparently erroneous computational analyses of protein sequences 
Genome Biology  2001;2(12):research0051.1-research0051.11.
Computational predictions are critical for directing the experimental study of protein functions. Therefore it is paradoxical when an apparently erroneous computational prediction seems to be supported by experiment.
We analyzed six cases where application of novel or conventional computational methods for protein sequence and structure analysis led to non-trivial predictions that were subsequently supported by direct experiments. We show that, on all six occasions, the original prediction was unjustified, and in at least three cases, an alternative, well-supported computational prediction, incompatible with the original one, could be derived. The most unusual cases involved the identification of an archaeal cysteinyl-tRNA synthetase, a dihydropteroate synthase and a thymidylate synthase, for which experimental verifications of apparently erroneous computational predictions were reported. Using sequence-profile analysis, multiple alignment and secondary-structure prediction, we have identified the unique archaeal 'cysteinyl-tRNA synthetase' as a homolog of extracellular polygalactosaminidases, and the 'dihydropteroate synthase' as a member of the β-lactamase-like superfamily of metal-dependent hydrolases.
In each of the analyzed cases, the original computational predictions could be refuted and, in some instances, alternative strongly supported predictions were obtained. The nature of the experimental evidence that appears to support these predictions remains an open question. Some of these experiments might signify discovery of extremely unusual forms of the respective enzymes, whereas the results of others could be due to artifacts.
PMCID: PMC64836  PMID: 11790254

Results 1-5 (5)