Gene duplication and the evolution of group II chaperonins: implications for structure and function

J Struct Biol. 2001 Aug;135(2):157-69. doi: 10.1006/jsbi.2001.4353.


Chaperonins are multisubunit protein-folding assemblies. They are composed of two distinct structural classes, which also have a characteristic phylogenetic distribution. Group I chaperonins (called GroEL/cpn60/hsp60) are present in Bacteria and eukaryotic organelles while group II chaperonins are found in Archaea (called the thermosome or TF55) and the cytoplasm of eukaryotes (called CCT or TriC). Gene duplication has been an important force in the evolution of group II chaperonins: Archaea possess one, two, or three homologous chaperonin subunit-encoding genes, and eight distinct CCT gene families (paralogs) have been described in eukaryotes. Phylogenetic analyses indicate that while the duplications in archaeal chaperonin genes have occurred numerous times independently in a lineage-specific fashion, the eight different CCT subunits found in eukaryotes are the products of duplications that occurred early and very likely only once in the evolution of the eukaryotic nuclear genome. Analyses of CCT sequences from diverse eukaryotic species reveal that each of the CCT subunits possesses a suite of invariant subunit-specific amino acid residues ("signatures"). When mapped onto the crystal structure of the archaeal chaperonin from Thermoplasma acidophilum, these signatures are located in the apical, intermediate, and equatorial domains. Regions that were found to be variable in length and/or amino acid sequence were localized primarily to the exterior of the molecule and, significantly, to the extreme tip of the apical domain (the "helical protrusion"). In light of recent biochemical and electron microscopic data describing specific CCT-substrate interactions, our results have implications for the evolution of subunit-specific functions in CCT.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Archaeal Proteins / chemistry
  • Binding Sites
  • Chaperonins / chemistry*
  • Chaperonins / genetics*
  • Eukaryotic Cells / chemistry
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Duplication*
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Phylogeny
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Protein Subunits
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Thermoplasma / chemistry


  • Archaeal Proteins
  • Protein Subunits
  • Chaperonins