Background: The Anaphase Promoting Complex or Cyclosome (APC/C) is the largest member of the ubiquitin ligase [E3] family. It plays a crucial role in the control of the cell cycle and cell proliferation by mediating the proteolysis of key components by the proteasome. APC/C is made of a dozen subunits that assemble into a large complex of ~1.5 MDa, which interacts with various cofactors and targets.
Results: Using comparative genomic and phylogenetic approaches, we showed that 24 out of 37 known APC/C subunits, adaptors/co-activators and main targets, were already present in the Last Eukaryotic Common Ancestor (LECA) and were well conserved to a few exceptions in all present-day eukaryotic lineages. The phylogenetic analysis of the 24 components inferred to be present in LECA showed that they contain a reliable phylogenetic signal to reconstruct the phylogeny of the domain Eucarya.
Conclusions: Taken together our analyses indicated that LECA had a complex and highly controlled modern-like cell cycle. Moreover, we showed that, despite what is generally assumed, proteins involved in housekeeping cellular functions may be a good complement to informational genes to study the phylogeny of eukaryotes.