The dispanins: a novel gene family of ancient origin that contains 14 human members

PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e31961. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031961. Epub 2012 Feb 20.


The Interferon induced transmembrane proteins (IFITM) are a family of transmembrane proteins that is known to inhibit cell invasion of viruses such as HIV-1 and influenza. We show that the IFITM genes are a subfamily in a larger family of transmembrane (TM) proteins that we call Dispanins, which refers to a common 2TM structure. We mined the Dispanins in 36 eukaryotic species, covering all major eukaryotic groups, and investigated their evolutionary history using Bayesian and maximum likelihood approaches to infer a phylogenetic tree. We identified ten human genes that together with the known IFITM genes form the Dispanin family. We show that the Dispanins first emerged in eukaryotes in a common ancestor of choanoflagellates and metazoa, and that the family later expanded in vertebrates where it forms four subfamilies (A-D). Interestingly, we also find that the family is found in several different phyla of bacteria and propose that it was horizontally transferred to eukaryotes from bacteria in the common ancestor of choanoflagellates and metazoa. The bacterial and eukaryotic sequences have a considerably conserved protein structure. In conclusion, we introduce a novel family, the Dispanins, together with a nomenclature based on the evolutionary origin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Multigene Family / genetics*
  • Phylogeny*
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Vertebrates / genetics


  • Membrane Proteins