The Krüppel-like factor and specificity protein (KLF/SP) genes play key roles in critical biological processes including stem cell maintenance, cell proliferation, embryonic development, tissue differentiation, and metabolism and their dysregulation has been implicated in a number of human diseases and cancers. Although many KLF/SP genes have been characterized in a handful of bilaterian lineages, little is known about the KLF/SP gene family in nonbilaterians and virtually nothing is known outside the metazoans. Here, we analyze and discuss the origins and evolutionary history of the KLF/SP transcription factor family and associated transactivation/repression domains. We have identified and characterized the complete KLF/SP gene complement from the genomes of 48 species spanning the Eukarya. We have also examined the phylogenetic distribution of transactivation/repression domains associated with this gene family. We report that the origin of the KLF/SP gene family predates the divergence of the Metazoa. Furthermore, the expansion of the KLF/SP gene family is paralleled by diversification of transactivation domains via both acquisitions of pre-existing ancient domains as well as by the appearance of novel domains exclusive to this gene family and is strongly associated with the expansion of cell type complexity.
Keywords: C2H2 zinc fingers; domain architecture; domain co-occurrence network; domain evolution; domain shuffling; low-complexity regions.
© The Author(s) 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.