Positive Selection of Tyrosine Loss in Metazoan Evolution

Science  25 Sep 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5948, pp. 1686-1688
DOI: 10.1126/science.1174301

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Cataloging Kinase Targets

Protein phosphorylation is a central mechanism in the control of many biological processes (see the Perspective by Collins). It remains a challenge to determine the complete range of substrates and phosphorylation sites altered by a kinase like cyclin-dependent kinase 1 (Cdk1), which controls cell division in yeast. Holt et al. (p. 1682) engineered a strain of yeast to express a modified Cdk1 molecule that could be inhibited by a specific small-molecule inhibitor. The range of Cdk1-dependent phosphorylation was assessed by quantitative mass spectrometry, which revealed many previously uncharacterized substrates for Cdk1. In addition to phosphorylation on serine and threonine residues, which appears to be evolutionarily ancient, tyrosine phosphorylation occurs primarily in multicellular organisms. Tan et al. (p. 1686, published online 9 July) compared the overall presence of tyrosine residues in human proteins (which are frequently phosphorylated) and in yeast proteins (which are not). Loss of tyrosine residues has occurred during evolution, presumably to reduce adventitious tyrosine phosphorylation.


John Nash showed that within a complex system, individuals are best off if they make the best decision that they can, taking into account the decisions of the other individuals. Here, we investigate whether similar principles influence the evolution of signaling networks in multicellular animals. Specifically, by analyzing a set of metazoan species we observed a striking negative correlation of genomically encoded tyrosine content with biological complexity (as measured by the number of cell types in each organism). We discuss how this observed tyrosine loss correlates with the expansion of tyrosine kinases in the evolution of the metazoan lineage and how it may relate to the optimization of signaling systems in multicellular animals. We propose that this phenomenon illustrates genome-wide adaptive evolution to accommodate beneficial genetic perturbation.

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