Background: Motor proteins have extensively been studied in the past and consist of large superfamilies. They are involved in diverse processes like cell division, cellular transport, neuronal transport processes, or muscle contraction, to name a few. Vertebrates contain up to 60 myosins and about the same number of kinesins that are spread over more than a dozen distinct classes.
Results: Here, we present the comparative genomic analysis of the motor protein repertoire of 21 completely sequenced arthropod species using the owl limpet Lottia gigantea as outgroup. Arthropods contain up to 17 myosins grouped into 13 classes. The myosins are in almost all cases clear paralogs, and thus the evolution of the arthropod myosin inventory is mainly determined by gene losses. Arthropod species contain up to 29 kinesins spread over 13 classes. In contrast to the myosins, the evolution of the arthropod kinesin inventory is not only determined by gene losses but also by many subtaxon-specific and species-specific gene duplications. All arthropods contain each of the subunits of the cytoplasmic dynein/dynactin complex. Except for the dynein light chains and the p150 dynactin subunit they contain single gene copies of the other subunits. Especially the roadblock light chain repertoire is very species-specific.
Conclusion: All 21 completely sequenced arthropods, including the twelve sequenced Drosophila species, contain a species-specific set of motor proteins. The phylogenetic analysis of all genes as well as the protein repertoire placed Daphnia pulex closest to the root of the Arthropoda. The louse Pediculus humanus corporis is the closest relative to Daphnia followed by the group of the honeybee Apis mellifera and the jewel wasp Nasonia vitripennis. After this group the rust-red flour beetle Tribolium castaneum and the silkworm Bombyx mori diverged very closely from the lineage leading to the Drosophila species.