Coatomer in the universe of cellular complexity

Mol Biol Cell. 2022 Dec 1;33(14):pe8. doi: 10.1091/mbc.E19-01-0012.


Eukaryotic cells possess considerable internal complexity, differentiating them from prokaryotes. Eukaryogenesis, an evolutionary transitional period culminating in the last eukaryotic common ancestor (LECA), marked the origin of the eukaryotic endomembrane system. LECA is reconstructed as possessing intracellular complexity akin to modern eukaryotes. Construction of endomembrane compartments involved three key gene families: coatomer, BAR-domain proteins, and ESCRT. Each has a distinct evolutionary origin, but of these coatomer and BAR proteins are eukaryote specific, while ESCRT has more ancient origins. We discuss the structural motifs defining these three membrane-coating complexes and suggest that compared with BAR and ESCRT, the coatomer architecture had a unique ability to be readily and considerably modified, unlocking functional diversity and enabling the development of the eukaryotic cell.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution
  • COP-Coated Vesicles
  • Endosomal Sorting Complexes Required for Transport / metabolism
  • Eukaryota* / genetics
  • Eukaryotic Cells* / metabolism


  • Endosomal Sorting Complexes Required for Transport