Insights into the origin of nematode chemosensory GPCRs: putative orthologs of the Srw family are found across several phyla of protostomes

PLoS One. 2014 Mar 24;9(3):e93048. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0093048. eCollection 2014.


Nematode chemosensory GPCRs in Caenorhabditis elegans (NemChRs) are classified into 19 gene families, and are initially thought to have split from the ancestral Rhodopsin family of GPCRs. However, earlier studies have shown that among all 19 NemChR gene families, only the srw family has a clear sequence relationship to the ancestral Rhodopsin GPCR family. Yet, the phylogenetic relationships between the srw family of NemChRs and the Rhodopsin subfamilies are not fully understood. Also, a widespread search was not previously performed to check for the presence of putative srw family-like sequences or the other 18 NemChR families in several new protostome species outside the nematode lineage. In this study, we have investigated for the presence of 19 NemChR families across 26 eukaryotic species, covering basal eukaryotic branches and provide the first evidence that the srw family of NemChRs is indeed present across several phyla of protostomes. We could identify 29 putative orthologs of the srw family in insects (15 genes), molluscs (11 genes) and Schistosoma mansoni (3 genes). Furthermore, using HMM-HMM profile based comparisons and phylogenetic analysis we show that among all Rhodopsin subfamilies, the peptide and SOG (somatostatin/opioid/galanin) subfamilies are phylogenetically the closest relatives to the srw family of NemChRs. Taken together, we demonstrate that the srw family split from the large Rhodopsin family, possibly from the peptide and/or SOG subfamilies, well before the split of the nematode lineage, somewhere close to the divergence of the common ancestor of protostomes. Our analysis also suggests that the srsx family of NemChRs shares a clear sequence homology with the Rhodopsin subfamilies, as well as with few of the vertebrate olfactory receptors. Overall, this study provides further insights into the evolutionary events that shaped the GPCR chemosensory system in protostome species.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics*
  • Phylogeny*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / genetics*


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled

Grants and funding

This study was supported by the Swedish Research Council, the Åhlens Foundation, Tore Nilssons foundation, byggmästare Engquist foundation, the Swedish Brain Research Foundation and the Novo Nordisk Foundation. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.