Background: Membrane trafficking involves the complex regulation of proteins and lipids intracellular localization and is required for metabolic uptake, cell growth and development. Different trafficking pathways passing through the endosomes are coordinated by the ENTH/ANTH/VHS adaptor protein superfamily. The endosomes are crucial for eukaryotes since the acquisition of the endomembrane system was a central process in eukaryogenesis.
Results: Our in silico analysis of this ENTH/ANTH/VHS superfamily, consisting of proteins gathered from 84 complete genomes representative of the different eukaryotic taxa, revealed that genomic distribution of this superfamily allows to discriminate Fungi and Metazoa from Plantae and Protists. Next, in a four way genome wide comparison, we showed that this discriminative feature is observed not only for other membrane trafficking effectors, but also for proteins involved in metabolism and in cytokinesis, suggesting that metabolism, cytokinesis and intracellular trafficking pathways co-evolved. Moreover, some of the proteins identified were implicated in multiple functions, in either trafficking and metabolism or trafficking and cytokinesis, suggesting that membrane trafficking is central to this co-evolution process.
Conclusions: Our study suggests that membrane trafficking and compartmentalization were not only key features for the emergence of eukaryotic cells but also drove the separation of the eukaryotes in the different taxa.