Ancient origin of glycosyl hydrolase family 9 cellulase genes

A. Davison, M. Blaxter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

While it is widely accepted that most animals (Metazoa) do not have endogenous cellulases, relying instead on intestinal symbionts for cellulose digestion, the glycosyl hydrolase family 9 (GHF9) cellulases found in the genomes of termites, abalone, and sea squirts could be an exception. Using information from expressed sequence tags, we show that GHF9 genes (subgroup E2) are widespread in Metazoa because at least 11 classes in five phyla have expressed GHF9 cellulases. We also demonstrate that eukaryotic GHF9 gene families are ancient, forming distinct monophyletic groups in plants and animals. As several intron positions are also conserved between four metazoan phyla then, contrary to the still widespread belief that cellulases were horizontally transferred to animals relatively recently, GHF9 genes must derive from an ancient ancestor. We also found that sequences isolated from the same animal phylum tend to group together, and in some deuterostomes, GHF9 genes are characterized by substitutions in catalytically important sites. Several paralogous subfamilies of GHF9 can be identified in plants, and genes from primitive species tend to arise basally to angiosperm representatives. In contrast, GHF9 subgroup E2 genes are relatively rare in bacteria.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1273-1284
Number of pages0
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2005

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • cellulase
  • expressed sequence tag
  • glycosyl hydrolase
  • horizontal gene transfer


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