The Shisa family of single-transmembrane proteins is characterized by an N-terminal cysteine-rich domain and a proline-rich C-terminal region. Its founding member, Xenopus Shisa, promotes head development by antagonizing Wnt and FGF signaling. Recently, a mouse brain-specific Shisa protein CKAMP44 (Shisa9) was shown to play an important role in AMPA receptor desensitization. We used sequence similarity searches against protein, genome and EST databases to study the evolutionary origin and phylogenetic distribution of Shisa homologs. In addition to nine Shisa subfamilies in vertebrates, we detected distantly related Shisa homologs that possess an N-terminal domain with six conserved cysteines. These Shisa-like proteins include FAM159 and KIAA1644 mainly from vertebrates, and members from various bilaterian invertebrates and Porifera, suggesting their presence in the last common ancestor of Metazoa. Shisa-like genes have undergone large expansions in Branchiostoma floridae and Saccoglossus kowalevskii, and appear to have been lost in certain insects. Pattern-based searches against eukaryotic proteomes also uncovered several other families of predicted single-transmembrane proteins with a similar cysteine-rich domain. We refer to these proteins (Shisa/Shisa-like, WBP1/VOPP1, CX, DUF2650, TMEM92, and CYYR1) as STMC6 proteins (single-transmembrane proteins with conserved 6 cysteines). STMC6 genes are widespread in Metazoa, with the human genome containing 17 members. Frequent occurrences of PY motifs in STMC6 proteins suggest that most of them could interact with WW-domain-containing proteins, such as the NEDD4 family E3 ubiquitin ligases, and could play critical roles in protein degradation and sorting. STMC6 proteins are likely transmembrane adaptors that regulate membrane proteins such as cell surface receptors.
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