On the evolutionary origin of the chaperonins


An analysis of the apical domain of the Group-I and Group-II chaperonins shows that they have structural similarities to two different protein folds: a "swivel-domain" phosphotransferase and a thioredoxin-like peroxiredoxin. There is no significant sequence similarity that supports either similarity and the degree of similarity based on structure is comparable but weak for both relationships. Based on possible evolutionary transitions, we deduced that a phosphotransferase origin would require both a large insertion and deletion of structure whereas a peroxiredoxin origin requires only a peripheral rearrangement, similar to an internal domain-swap. We postulate that this change could have been triggered by the insertion of a peroxiredoxin into the ATPase domain that led to the modern chaperonin domain arrangement. The peroxidoxin fold is the most highly embellished member of the thioredoxin super-family and the insertion event may have "overloaded" the core, leading to a rearrangement. A peroxiredoxin origin for the domain also provides a functional explanation, as the peroxiredoxins can act as chaperones when they adopt a multimeric ring complex, similar to the chaperonin subunit configuration. In addition, several of the GroEL apical domain hydrophobic residues which interact with the unfolded protein are located in a position that corresponds to the protein substrate binding region of the peroxiredoxin fold. We suggest that the origin of the ur-chaperonin from a thioredoxin/peroxiredoxin fold might also account for the number of thioredoxin-fold containing proteins that interact with chaperonins, such as tubulin and phosducin-like proteins.

Journal details

Journal Proteins
Volume 79
Issue number 4
Pages 1172-1192
Publication date


Crick labs/facilities