Molecular evolution of the reactive oxygen-generating NADPH oxidase (Nox/Duox) family of enzymes

BMC Evol Biol. 2007 Jul 6;7:109. doi: 10.1186/1471-2148-7-109.


Background: NADPH-oxidases (Nox) and the related Dual oxidases (Duox) play varied biological and pathological roles via regulated generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Members of the Nox/Duox family have been identified in a wide variety of organisms, including mammals, nematodes, fruit fly, green plants, fungi, and slime molds; however, little is known about the molecular evolutionary history of these enzymes.

Results: We assembled and analyzed the deduced amino acid sequences of 101 Nox/Duox orthologs from 25 species, including vertebrates, urochordates, echinoderms, insects, nematodes, fungi, slime mold amoeba, alga and plants. In contrast to ROS defense enzymes, such as superoxide dismutase and catalase that are present in prokaryotes, ROS-generating Nox/Duox orthologs only appeared later in evolution. Molecular taxonomy revealed seven distinct subfamilies of Noxes and Duoxes. The calcium-regulated orthologs representing 4 subfamilies diverged early and are the most widely distributed in biology. Subunit-regulated Noxes represent a second major subdivision, and appeared first in fungi and amoeba. Nox5 was lost in rodents, and Nox3, which functions in the inner ear in gravity perception, emerged the most recently, corresponding to full-time adaptation of vertebrates to land. The sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus possesses the earliest Nox2 co-ortholog of vertebrate Nox1, 2, and 3, while Nox4 first appeared somewhat later in urochordates. Comparison of evolutionary substitution rates demonstrates that Nox2, the regulatory subunits p47phox and p67phox, and Duox are more stringently conserved in vertebrates than other Noxes and Nox regulatory subunits. Amino acid sequence comparisons identified key catalytic or regulatory regions, as 68 residues were highly conserved among all Nox/Duox orthologs, and 14 of these were identical with those mutated in Nox2 in variants of X-linked chronic granulomatous disease. In addition to canonical motifs, the B-loop, TM6-FAD, VXGPFG-motif, and extreme C-terminal regions were identified as important for Nox activity, as verified by mutational analysis. The presence of these non-canonical, but highly conserved regions suggests that all Nox/Duox may possess a common biological function remained in a long history of Nox/Duox evolution.

Conclusion: This report provides the first comprehensive analysis of the evolution and conserved functions of Nox and Duox family members, including identification of conserved amino acid residues. These results provide a guide for future structure-function studies and for understanding the evolution of biological functions of these enzymes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / genetics
  • NADPH Oxidase 2
  • NADPH Oxidases / genetics*
  • Phylogeny
  • Point Mutation
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Transfection


  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • CYBB protein, human
  • NADPH Oxidase 2
  • NADPH Oxidases