Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Evolutionary Biology and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Phylogeny and evolution of Rab7 and Rab9 proteins

Paweł Mackiewicz1* and Elżbieta Wyroba2

Author Affiliations

1 University of Wrocław, Faculty of Biotechnology, Department of Genomics, 63/77 Przybyszewskiego Street, 51-148 Wrocław, Poland

2 Department of Cell Biology, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, 3 Pasteur Street, 02-093 Warsaw, Poland

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Evolutionary Biology 2009, 9:101  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-9-101

Published: 14 May 2009

Abstract

Background

An important role in the evolution of intracellular trafficking machinery in eukaryotes played small GTPases belonging to the Rab family known as pivotal regulators of vesicle docking, fusion and transport. The Rab family is very diversified and divided into several specialized subfamilies. We focused on the VII functional group comprising Rab7 and Rab9, two related subfamilies, and analysed 210 sequences of these proteins. Rab7 regulates traffic from early to late endosomes and from late endosome to vacuole/lysosome, whereas Rab9 participates in transport from late endosomes to the trans-Golgi network.

Results

Although Rab7 and Rab9 proteins are quite small and show heterogeneous rates of substitution in different lineages, we found a phylogenetic signal and inferred evolutionary relationships between them. Rab7 proteins evolved before radiation of main eukaryotic supergroups while Rab9 GTPases diverged from Rab7 before split of choanoflagellates and metazoans. Additional duplication of Rab9 and Rab7 proteins resulting in several isoforms occurred in the early evolution of vertebrates and next in teleost fishes and tetrapods. Three Rab7 lineages emerged before divergence of monocots and eudicots and subsequent duplications of Rab7 genes occurred in particular angiosperm clades. Interestingly, several Rab7 copies were identified in some representatives of excavates, ciliates and amoebozoans. The presence of many Rab copies is correlated with significant differences in their expression level. The diversification of analysed Rab subfamilies is also manifested by non-conserved sequences and structural features, many of which are involved in the interaction with regulators and effectors. Individual sites discriminating different subgroups of Rab7 and Rab9 GTPases have been identified.

Conclusion

Phylogenetic reconstructions of Rab7 and Rab9 proteins were performed by a variety of methods. These Rab GTPases show diversification both at the phylogenetic, expression and structural levels. The presence of many Rab7 and Rab9 isoforms suggests their functional specialization and complexity of subcellular trafficking even in unicellular eukaryotes. The identified less conserved regions in analysed Rab sequences may directly contribute to such a differentiation.