Evolution of the 14-3-3 protein family: does the large number of isoforms in multicellular organisms reflect functional specificity?

J Mol Evol. 2000 Nov;51(5):446-58. doi: 10.1007/s002390010107.


14-3-3 proteins constitute a family of eukaryotic proteins that are key regulators of a large number of processes ranging from mitosis to apoptosis. 14-3-3s function as dimers and bind to particular motifs in their target proteins. To date, 14-3-3s have been implicated in regulation or stabilization of more than 35 different proteins. This number is probably only a fraction of the number of proteins that 14-3-3s bind to, as reports of new target proteins have become more frequent. An examination of 14-3-3 entries in the public databases reveals 153 isoforms, including alleloforms, reported in 48 different species. The number of isoforms range from 2, in the unicellular organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae, to 12 in the multicellular organism Arabidopsis thaliana. A phylogenetic analysis reveals that there are four major evolutionary lineages: Viridiplantae (plants), Fungi, Alveolata, and Metazoa (animals). A close examination of the aligned amino acid sequences identifies conserved amino acid residues and regions of importance for monomer stabilization, dimer formation, target protein binding, and the nuclear export function. Given the fact that 53% of the protein is conserved, including all amino acid residues in the target binding groove of the 14-3-3 monomer, one might expect little to no isoform specificity for target protein binding. However, using surface plasmon resonance we show that there are large differences in affinity between nine 14-3-3 isoforms of A. thaliana and a target peptide representing a novel binding motif present in the C terminus of the plant plasma membrane H(+)ATPase. Thus, our data suggest that one reason for the large number of isoforms found in multicellular organisms is isoform-specific functions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 14-3-3 Proteins
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Conserved Sequence
  • Databases, Factual
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Molecular Structure
  • Phylogeny
  • Protein Isoforms / genetics
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / chemistry
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / genetics*


  • 14-3-3 Proteins
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase