Modularity is a hallmark of molecular evolution. Whether considering gene regulation, the components of metabolic pathways or signaling cascades, the ability to reuse autonomous modules in different molecular contexts can expedite evolutionary innovation. Similarly, protein domains are the modules of proteins, and modular domain rearrangements can create diversity with seemingly few operations in turn allowing for swift changes to an organism's functional repertoire. Here, we assess the patterns and functional effects of modular rearrangements at high resolution. Using a well resolved and diverse group of pancrustaceans, we illustrate arrangement diversity within closely related organisms, estimate arrangement turnover frequency and establish, for the first time, branch-specific rate estimates for fusion, fission, domain addition and terminal loss. Our results show that roughly 16 new arrangements arise per million years and that between 64% and 81% of these can be explained by simple, single-step modular rearrangement events. We find evidence that the frequencies of fission and terminal deletion events increase over time, and that modular rearrangements impact all levels of the cellular signaling apparatus and thus may have strong adaptive potential. Novel arrangements that cannot be explained by simple modular rearrangements contain a significant amount of repeat domains that occur in complex patterns which we term "supra-repeats". Furthermore, these arrangements are significantly longer than those with a single-step rearrangement solution, suggesting that such arrangements may result from multi-step events. In summary, our analysis provides an integrated view and initial quantification of the patterns and functional impact of modular protein evolution in a well resolved phylogenetic tree. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: The emerging dynamic view of proteins: Protein plasticity in allostery, evolution and self-assembly.
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