Diversity and evolution of the thyroglobulin type-1 domain superfamily

Mol Biol Evol. 2006 Apr;23(4):744-55. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msj082. Epub 2005 Dec 20.


Multidomain proteins are gaining increasing consideration for their puzzling, flexible utilization in nature. The presence of the characteristic thyroglobulin type-1 (Tg1) domain as a protein module in a variety of multicellular organisms suggests pivotal roles for this building block. To gain insight into the evolution of Tg1 domains, we performed searches of protein, expressed sequence tag, and genome databases. Tg1 domains were found to be Metazoa specific, and we retrieved a total of 170 Tg1 domain-containing protein sequences. Their architectures revealed a wide taxonomic distribution of proteins containing Tg1 domains followed or preceded by secreted protein, acidic, rich in cysteines (SPARC)-type extracellular calcium-binding domains. Other proteins contained lineage-specific domain combinations of peptidase inhibitory modules or domains with different biological functions. Phylogenetic analysis showed that Tg1 domains are highly conserved within protein structures, whereas insertion into novel proteins is followed by rapid diversification. Seven different basic types of protein architecture containing the Tg1 domain were identified in vertebrates. We examined the evolution of these protein groups by combining Tg1 domain phylogeny with additional analyses based on other characteristic domains. Testicans and secreted modular calcium binding protein (SMOCs) evolved from invertebrate homologs by introduction of vertebrate-specific domains, nidogen evolved by insertion of a Tg1 domain into a preexisting architecture, and the remaining four have unique architectures. Thyroglobulin, Trops, and the major histocompatibility complex class II-associated invariant chain are vertebrate specific, while an insulin-like growth factor-binding protein and nidogen were also identified in urochordates. Among vertebrates, we observed differences in protein repertoires, which result from gene duplication and domain duplication. Members of five groups have been characterized at the molecular level. All exhibit subtle differences in their specificities and function either as peptidase inhibitors (thyropins), substrates, or both. As far as the sequence is concerned, only a few conserved residues were identified. In combination with structural data, our analysis shows that the Tg1 domain fold is highly adaptive and comprises a relatively well-conserved core surrounded by highly variable loops that account for its multipurpose function in the animal kingdom.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Expressed Sequence Tags / chemistry
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Multigene Family*
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary / genetics
  • Thyroglobulin / chemistry
  • Thyroglobulin / classification*
  • Thyroglobulin / genetics*


  • Thyroglobulin