The Ypt/Rab family and the evolution of trafficking in fungi

Traffic. 2008 Jan;9(1):27-38. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0854.2007.00667.x. Epub 2007 Nov 27.


The evolution of the eukaryotic endomembrane system and the transport pathways of their vesicular intermediates are poorly understood. A common set of organelles and pathways seems to be present in all free-living eukaryotes, but different branches of the tree of life have a variety of diverse, specialized organelles. Rab/Ypt proteins are small guanosine triphosphatases with tissue-specific and organelle-specific localization that emerged as markers for organelle diversity. Here, I characterize the Rab/Ypt family in the kingdom Fungi, a sister kingdom of Animals. I identify and annotate these proteins in 26 genomes representing near one billion years of evolution, multiple lifestyles and cellular types. Surprisingly, the minimal set of Rab/Ypt present in fungi is similar to, perhaps smaller than, the predicted eukaryotic ancestral set. This suggests that the saprophytic fungal lifestyle, multicellularity as well as the highly polarized secretion associated with hyphal growth did not require any major innovation in the molecular machinery that regulates protein trafficking. The Rab/Ypt and other protein traffic-related families are kept small, not paralleling increases in genome size, in contrast to the expansion of such components observed in other branches of the tree of life, such as the animal and plant kingdoms. This analysis suggests that multicellularity and cellular diversity in fungi followed different routes from those followed by plants and metazoa.

MeSH terms

  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Fungal Proteins / genetics
  • Fungal Proteins / metabolism*
  • Fungi / classification
  • Fungi / metabolism*
  • Genome, Fungal
  • Phylogeny
  • Protein Transport
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism*


  • Fungal Proteins
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins