Sequence, structure and functional diversity of PD-(D/E)XK phosphodiesterase superfamily

Nucleic Acids Res. 2012 Aug;40(15):7016-45. doi: 10.1093/nar/gks382. Epub 2012 May 25.


Proteins belonging to PD-(D/E)XK phosphodiesterases constitute a functionally diverse superfamily with representatives involved in replication, restriction, DNA repair and tRNA-intron splicing. Their malfunction in humans triggers severe diseases, such as Fanconi anemia and Xeroderma pigmentosum. To date there have been several attempts to identify and classify new PD-(D/E)KK phosphodiesterases using remote homology detection methods. Such efforts are complicated, because the superfamily exhibits extreme sequence and structural divergence. Using advanced homology detection methods supported with superfamily-wide domain architecture and horizontal gene transfer analyses, we provide a comprehensive reclassification of proteins containing a PD-(D/E)XK domain. The PD-(D/E)XK phosphodiesterases span over 21,900 proteins, which can be classified into 121 groups of various families. Eleven of them, including DUF4420, DUF3883, DUF4263, COG5482, COG1395, Tsp45I, HaeII, Eco47II, ScaI, HpaII and Replic_Relax, are newly assigned to the PD-(D/E)XK superfamily. Some groups of PD-(D/E)XK proteins are present in all domains of life, whereas others occur within small numbers of organisms. We observed multiple horizontal gene transfers even between human pathogenic bacteria or from Prokaryota to Eukaryota. Uncommon domain arrangements greatly elaborate the PD-(D/E)XK world. These include domain architectures suggesting regulatory roles in Eukaryotes, like stress sensing and cell-cycle regulation. Our results may inspire further experimental studies aimed at identification of exact biological functions, specific substrates and molecular mechanisms of reactions performed by these highly diverse proteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Catalytic Domain
  • DNA Restriction Enzymes / chemistry
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phosphoric Diester Hydrolases / chemistry*
  • Phosphoric Diester Hydrolases / classification*
  • Phosphoric Diester Hydrolases / genetics
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Analysis, Protein


  • DNA Restriction Enzymes
  • Phosphoric Diester Hydrolases