Rapid divergence in the course of Drosophila evolution reveals structural important domains of the Notch antagonist Hairless
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Hairless is a member of the Notch signalling pathway, where it acts as antagonist by binding to Suppressor of Hairless [Su(H)], thereby inhibiting Notch target gene activation. The pathway and its members are highly conserved in metazoans from worms to humans. However, a Hairless orthologue from another species has not yet been identified. The identification of Hairless in largely diverged species by cross-hybridization has failed so far probably due to a low degree of conservation. Therefore, we turned to D. hydei where a Hairless mutation has been described before. The D. hydei Hairless orthologue is reasonably well conserved with regard to gene structure and expression. The prospective Hairless protein orthologues share several highly conserved regions which are separated by quite diverged stretches. As to be expected, the largest region of high conservation corresponds to the Su(H) binding domain. This region is also functionally conserved, since this D. hydei protein domain binds very strongly to the D. melanogaster Su(H) protein. The other conserved regions support our earlier structure-function analysis since they nicely correspond to previously defined, functionally important protein domains. Most notably, the very C-terminal domain which is very sensitive to structural alterations, is nearly identical between the two species. In summary, this evolutionary study improves the knowledge on functionally significant domains of the Hairless protein, and may be helpful for the future identification of homologues in other animals, especially in vertebrates.
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