Annexins are an homologous, structurally related superfamily of proteins known to associate with membrane lipid and cytoskeletal components. Their involvement in membrane organization, vesicle trafficking and signaling is fundamental to cellular processes such as growth, differentiation, secretion and repair. Annexins exist in some prokaryotes and all eukaryotic phyla within which plant annexins represent a monophyletic clade of homologs descended from green algae. Genomic, proteomic and transcriptomic approaches have provided data on the diversity, cellular localization and expression patterns of different plant annexins. The availability of 35 complete plant genomes has enabled systematic comparative analysis to determine phylogenetic relationships, characterize structures and observe functional specificity between and within individual subfamilies. Short amino termini and selective erosion of the canonical type 2 calcium coordinating sites in domains 2 and 3 are typical of plant annexins. The convergent evolution of alternate functional motifs such as 'KGD', redox-sensitive Cys and hydrophobic Trp/Phe residues argues for their functional relevance and contribution to mechanistic diversity in plant annexins. This review examines recent findings and advances in plant annexin research with special focus on their structural diversity, cellular and molecular interactions and their potential integrated functions in the broader context of physiological responses.
© 2012 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2012 New Phytologist Trust.