Evolution of the SH3 Domain Specificity Landscape in Yeasts

PLoS One. 2015 Jun 11;10(6):e0129229. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0129229. eCollection 2015.


To explore the conservation of Src homology 3 (SH3) domain-mediated networks in evolution, we compared the specificity landscape of these domains among four yeast species, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Ashbya gossypii, Candida albicans, and Schizosaccharomyces pombe, encompassing 400 million years of evolution. We first aligned and catalogued the families of SH3-containing proteins in these four species to determine the relationships between homologous domains. Then, we tagged and purified all soluble SH3 domains (82 in total) to perform a quantitative peptide assay (SPOT) for each SH3 domain. All SPOT readouts were hierarchically clustered and we observed that the organization of the SH3 specificity landscape in three distinct profile classes remains conserved across these four yeast species. We also produced a specificity profile for each SH3 domain from manually aligned top SPOT hits and compared the within-family binding motif consensus. This analysis revealed a striking example of binding motif divergence in a C. albicans Rvs167 paralog, which cannot be explained by overall SH3 sequence or interface residue divergence, and we validated this specificity change with a yeast two-hybrid (Y2H) assay. In addition, we show that position-weighted matrices (PWM) compiled from SPOT assays can be used for binding motif screening in potential binding partners and present cases where motifs are either conserved or lost among homologous SH3 interacting proteins. Finally, by comparing pairwise SH3 sequence identity to binding profile correlation we show that for ~75% of all analyzed families the SH3 specificity profile was remarkably conserved over a large evolutionary distance. Thus, a high sequence identity within an SH3 domain family predicts conserved binding specificity, whereas divergence in sequence identity often coincided with a change in binding specificity within this family. As such, our results are important for future studies aimed at unraveling complex specificity networks of peptide recognition domains in higher eukaryotes, including mammals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Binding Sites
  • Candida albicans / metabolism
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Fungal Proteins / chemistry*
  • Fungal Proteins / metabolism
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / metabolism
  • Schizosaccharomyces / metabolism
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Two-Hybrid System Techniques
  • Yeasts / metabolism*
  • src Homology Domains


  • Fungal Proteins

Grants and funding

LS, BW, FH and BD received funding from the European Union (Marie Curie Research Training Network Penelope; MRTN-CT-2006-036076). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.