Gene Structure and Molecular Phylogeny of the Linker Chains from the Giant Annelid Hexagonal Bilayer Hemoglobins
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- Chabasse, C., Bailly, X., Sanchez, S. et al. J Mol Evol (2006) 63: 365. doi:10.1007/s00239-005-0198-9
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Giant extracellular hexagonal bilayer hemoglobin (HBL-Hb), found only in annelids, is an ∼3500-kDa heteropolymeric structure involved in oxygen transport. The HBL-Hbs are comprised of globin and linker chains, the latter being required for the assembly of the quaternary structure. The linker chains, varying in size from 225 to 283 amino acids, have a conserved cysteine-rich domain within their N-terminal moiety that is homologous to the cysteine-rich modules constituting the ligand binding domain of the low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR) protein family found in many metazoans. We have investigated the gene structure of linkers from Arenicola marina, Alvinella pompejana, Nereis diversicolor, Lumbricus terrestris, and Riftia pachyptila. We found, contrary to the results obtained earlier with linker genes from N. diversicolor and L. terrestris, that in all of the foregoing cases, the linker LDL-A module is flanked by two phase 1 introns, as in the human LDLR gene, with two more introns in the 3′ side whose positions varied with the species. In addition, we obtained 13 linker cDNAs that have been determined experimentally or found in the EST database LumbriBASE. A molecular phylogenetic analysis of the linker primary sequences demonstrated that they cluster into two distinct families of linker proteins. We propose that the common gene ancestor to annelid linker genes exhibited a four-intron and five-exon structure and gave rise to the two families subsequent to a duplication event.