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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Molecular evolution of NASP and conserved histone H3/H4 transport pathway

Syed Nabeel-Shah1, Kanwal Ashraf2, Ronald E Pearlman2 and Jeffrey Fillingham1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Chemistry and Biology, Ryerson University, 350 Victoria St., Toronto M5B 2K3, Canada

2 Department of Biology, York University, 4700 Keele St., Toronto M3J 1P3, Canada

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2014, 14:139  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-14-139

Published: 20 June 2014

Abstract

Background

NASP is an essential protein in mammals that functions in histone transport pathways and maintenance of a soluble reservoir of histones H3/H4. NASP has been studied exclusively in Opisthokonta lineages where some functional diversity has been reported. In humans, growing evidence implicates NASP miss-regulation in the development of a variety of cancers. Although a comprehensive phylogenetic analysis is lacking, NASP-family proteins that possess four TPR motifs are thought to be widely distributed across eukaryotes.

Results

We characterize the molecular evolution of NASP by systematically identifying putative NASP orthologs across diverse eukaryotic lineages ranging from excavata to those of the crown group. We detect extensive silent divergence at the nucleotide level suggesting the presence of strong purifying selection acting at the protein level. We also observe a selection bias for high frequencies of acidic residues which we hypothesize is a consequence of their critical function(s), further indicating the role of functional constraints operating on NASP evolution. Our data indicate that TPR1 and TPR4 constitute the most rapidly evolving functional units of NASP and may account for the functional diversity observed among well characterized family members. We also show that NASP paralogs in ray-finned fish have different genomic environments with clear differences in their GC content and have undergone significant changes at the protein level suggesting functional diversification.

Conclusion

We draw four main conclusions from this study. First, wide distribution of NASP throughout eukaryotes suggests that it was likely present in the last eukaryotic common ancestor (LECA) possibly as an important innovation in the transport of H3/H4. Second, strong purifying selection operating at the protein level has influenced the nucleotide composition of NASP genes. Further, we show that selection has acted to maintain a high frequency of functionally relevant acidic amino acids in the region that interrupts TPR2. Third, functional diversity reported among several well characterized NASP family members can be explained in terms of quickly evolving TPR1 and TPR4 motifs. Fourth, NASP fish specific paralogs have significantly diverged at the protein level with NASP2 acquiring a NNR domain.

Keywords:
NASP; H3/H4 transport; Hif1; N1/N2; Molecular evolution; Chromatin; Phylogenetics; SHNi-TPR; Histone chaperone