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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Molecular evolution of Cide family proteins: Novel domain formation in early vertebrates and the subsequent divergence

Congyang Wu1, Yinxin Zhang1, Zhirong Sun2 and Peng Li1*

Author Affiliations

1 Protein science laboratory of Ministry of Education, Department of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China

2 MOE Key Laboratory of Bioinformatics, State Key Laboratory of Biomembrane and Membrane Biotechnology, Department of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2008, 8:159  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-8-159

Published: 23 May 2008



Cide family proteins including Cidea, Cideb and Cidec/Fsp27, contain an N-terminal CIDE-N domain that shares sequence similarity to the N-terminal CAD domain (NCD) of DNA fragmentation factors Dffa/Dff45/ICAD and Dffb/Dff40/CAD, and a unique C-terminal CIDE-C domain. We have previously shown that Cide proteins are newly emerged regulators closely associated with the development of metabolic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and liver steatosis. They modulate many metabolic processes such as lipolysis, thermogenesis and TAG storage in brown adipose tissue (BAT) and white adipose tissue (WAT), as well as fatty acid oxidation and lipogenesis in the liver.


To understand the evolutionary process of Cide proteins and provide insight into the role of Cide proteins as potential metabolic regulators in various species, we searched various databases and performed comparative genomic analysis to study the sequence conservation, genomic structure, and phylogenetic tree of the CIDE-N and CIDE-C domains of Cide proteins. As a result, we identified signature sequences for the N-terminal region of Dffa, Dffb and Cide proteins and CIDE-C domain of Cide proteins, and observed that sequences homologous to CIDE-N domain displays a wide phylogenetic distribution in species ranging from lower organisms such as hydra (Hydra vulgaris) and sea anemone (Nematostella vectensis) to mammals, whereas the CIDE-C domain exists only in vertebrates. Further analysis of their genomic structures showed that although evolution of the ancestral CIDE-N domain had undergone different intron insertions to various positions in the domain among invertebrates, the genomic structure of Cide family in vertebrates is stable with conserved intron phase.


Based on our analysis, we speculate that in early vertebrates CIDE-N domain was evolved from the duplication of NCD of Dffa. The CIDE-N domain somehow acquired the CIDE-C domain that was formed around the same time, subsequently generating the Cide protein. Subsequent duplication and evolution have led to the formation of different Cide family proteins that play unique roles in the control of metabolic pathways in different tissues.