Structural and functional evolution of transthyretin and transthyretin-like proteins

Proteins. 2006 Sep 1;64(4):1024-45. doi: 10.1002/prot.21033.


Transthyretin (TTR) is a tetrameric protein involved in the distribution of thyroid hormones in vertebrates. The amino acid sequence of TTR is highly conserved across vertebrates. Hypothetical TTR-like proteins (TLPs) were inferred from the identification of genes in nonvertebrate species. Here, we identified five motifs defining TLPs and three motifs defining both TTRs and TLPs. These motifs were mapped onto structurally conserved and functionally important regions of TTRs. These motifs were used to build hidden Markov models for accurate identification of TLPs in other organisms. TLPs were divided into three main groups based on their N-terminal regions. Most TLPs are cytosolic, but in plants and slime mold, we predict they are peroxisomal. We verified that the TLPs from enterobacteria were periplasmic. We demonstrated that TLP genes are expressed in a bacterium (E. coli), an invertebrate animal (C. elegans), and a plant (A. thaliana). These TLPs have similar subunit molecular weights to TTRs, are tetramers, and are predicted to have similar three-dimensional (3D) structures to TTRs, but do not bind thyroid hormones or similar ligands. We suggest that like TTRs, the N-terminal and C-terminal regions of TLPs are integral in defining the function of TLPs in nonvertebrate species and that the TLP gene duplicated in primitive vertebrates to produce the TTR gene. TLP/TTR has retained its overall structure, but changed function and localization during evolution in bacteria, invertebrates, plants, and vertebrates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Motifs
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Humans
  • Markov Chains
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Prealbumin / chemistry
  • Prealbumin / genetics*
  • Protein Structure, Quaternary
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Sequence Alignment


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Prealbumin
  • TTL protein, Arabidopsis