ELMO domains, evolutionary and functional characterization of a novel GTPase-activating protein (GAP) domain for Arf protein family GTPases

J Biol Chem. 2012 Nov 16;287(47):39538-53. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M112.417477. Epub 2012 Sep 26.


The human family of ELMO domain-containing proteins (ELMODs) consists of six members and is defined by the presence of the ELMO domain. Within this family are two subclassifications of proteins, based on primary sequence conservation, protein size, and domain architecture, deemed ELMOD and ELMO. In this study, we used homology searching and phylogenetics to identify ELMOD family homologs in genomes from across eukaryotic diversity. This demonstrated not only that the protein family is ancient but also that ELMOs are potentially restricted to the supergroup Opisthokonta (Metazoa and Fungi), whereas proteins with the ELMOD organization are found in diverse eukaryotes and thus were likely the form present in the last eukaryotic common ancestor. The segregation of the ELMO clade from the larger ELMOD group is consistent with their contrasting functions as unconventional Rac1 guanine nucleotide exchange factors and the Arf family GTPase-activating proteins, respectively. We used unbiased, phylogenetic sorting and sequence alignments to identify the most highly conserved residues within the ELMO domain to identify a putative GAP domain within the ELMODs. Three independent but complementary assays were used to provide an initial characterization of this domain. We identified a highly conserved arginine residue critical for both the biochemical and cellular GAP activity of ELMODs. We also provide initial evidence of the function of human ELMOD1 as an Arf family GAP at the Golgi. These findings provide the basis for the future study of the ELMOD family of proteins and a new avenue for the study of Arf family GTPases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • ADP-Ribosylation Factors / genetics*
  • ADP-Ribosylation Factors / metabolism
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / genetics*
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / metabolism
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • GTPase-Activating Proteins
  • Golgi Apparatus / genetics
  • Golgi Apparatus / metabolism
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Phylogeny*
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • rac1 GTP-Binding Protein / genetics
  • rac1 GTP-Binding Protein / metabolism


  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • ELMOD1 protein, human
  • GTPase-Activating Proteins
  • RAC1 protein, human
  • ADP-Ribosylation Factors
  • rac1 GTP-Binding Protein