Origin and evolution of arthropod hemocyanins and related proteins
Arthropod hemocyanins are large, multimeric, (n×6) copper-containing proteins that deliver oxygen in the haemolymph of many chelicerate, crustacean, myriapod, and also possibly some insect species. The arthropod hemocyanins belong to a large protein superfamily that also includes the arthropod phenoloxidases, certain crustacean and insect storage proteins (pseudo-hemocyanins and hexamerins), and the insect hexamerin receptors. Here I summarise the present knowledge of the origin, functional adaptations, and evolution of these proteins. Arthropod and mollusc hemocyanins are, if at all, only distantly related. As early as in the arthropod stem line, the hemocyanins emerged from a phenoloxidase-like enzyme. The evolution of distinct hemocyanin subunits, as well as the formation of multi-hexamers occurred independently within the arthropod subphyla. Hemocyanin subunit evolution is strikingly different in the Chelicerata, Myriapoda and Crustacea. Hemocyanins individually gave rise to two distinct copper-less storage proteins, the insect hexamerins and the crustacean pseudo-hemocyanins (cryptocyanins). The receptor responsible for the uptake of hexamerin by the larval fat body of the insects emerged from a hexamerin-precursor. Molecular phylogenetic analyses show a close relationship of the crustacean and insect proteins, providing strong support for a pancrustacean taxon, while structural data suggest a myriapod-chelicerate clade.