The core architecture of the eukaryotic cell was established well over one billion years ago, and is largely retained in all extant lineages. However, eukaryotic cells also possess lineage-specific features, frequently keyed to specific functional requirements. One quintessential core eukaryotic structure is the nuclear pore complex (NPC), responsible for regulating exchange of macromolecules between the nucleus and cytoplasm as well as acting as a nuclear organizational hub. NPC architecture has been best documented in one eukaryotic supergroup, the Opisthokonts (e.g. Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Homo sapiens), which although compositionally similar, have significant variations in certain NPC subcomplex structures. The variation of NPC structure across other taxa in the eukaryotic kingdom however, remains poorly understood. We explored trypanosomes, highly divergent organisms, and mapped and assigned their NPC proteins to specific substructures to reveal their NPC architecture. We showed that the NPC central structural scaffold is conserved, likely across all eukaryotes, but more peripheral elements can exhibit very significant lineage-specific losses, duplications or other alterations in their components. Amazingly, trypanosomes lack the major components of the mRNA export platform that are asymmetrically localized within yeast and vertebrate NPCs. Concomitant with this, the trypanosome NPC is ALMOST completely symmetric with the nuclear basket being the only major source of asymmetry. We suggest these features point toward a stepwise evolution of the NPC in which a coating scaffold first stabilized the pore after which selective gating emerged and expanded, leading to the addition of peripheral remodeling machineries on the nucleoplasmic and cytoplasmic sides of the pore.
Keywords: Trypanosoma brucei; eukaryogenesis; mRNA export; molecular evolution; nuclear pore complex.