Classification and evolution of EF-hand proteins

Biometals. 1998 Dec;11(4):277-95. doi: 10.1023/a:1009282307967.


Forty-five distinct subfamilies of EF-hand proteins have been identified. They contain from two to eight EF-hands that are recognizable by amino acid sequence as being statistically similar to other EF-hand domains. All proteins within one subfamily are congruent to one another, i.e. the dendrogram computed from one of the EF-hand domains is similar, within statistical error, to the dendrogram computed from another(s) domain. Thirteen subfamilies--including Calmodulin, Troponin C, Essential light chain, Regulatory light chain--referred to collectively as CTER, are congruent with one another. They appear to have evolved from a single ur-domain by two cycles of gene duplication and fusion. The subfamilies of CTER subsequently evolved by gene duplications and speciations. The remaining 32 subfamilies do not show such general patterns of congruence; however, some--such as S100, intestinal calcium binding protein (calbindin 9 kd), and trichohylin--do not form congruent clusters of subfamilies. Nearly all of the domains 1, 3, 5, and 7 are most similar to other ODD domains. Correspondingly the EVEN numbered domains of all 45 subfamilies most closely resemble EVEN domains of other subfamilies. Many sequence and chemical characteristics do not show systemic trends by subfamily or species of host organisms; such homoplasy is widespread. Eighteen of the subfamilies are heterochimeric; in addition to multiple EF-hands they contain domains of other evolutionary origins.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / chemistry*
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / classification
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Humans
  • Phylogeny*
  • Protein Structure, Secondary*
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Proteins / classification
  • Proteins / genetics*


  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Proteins