The tubulin superfamily in archaea
© 2017, Springer International Publishing AG. In comparison with bacteria and eukaryotes, the large and diverse group of microorganisms known as archaea possess a great diversity of cytoskeletal proteins, including members of the tubulin superfamily. Many species contain FtsZ, CetZ and even possible tubulins; however, some major taxonomic groups do not contain any member of the tubulin superfamily. Studies using the model archaeon, Halferax volcanii have recently been instrumental in defining the fundamental roles of FtsZ and CetZ in archaeal cell division and cell shape regulation. Structural studies of archaeal tubulin superfamily proteins provide a definitive contribution to the cytoskeletal field, showing which protein-types must have developed prior to the divergence of archaea and eukaryotes. Several regions of the globular core domain – the “signature” motifs – combine in the 3D structure of the common molecular fold to form the GTP-binding site. They are the most conserved sequence elements and provide the primary basis for identification of new superfamily members through homology searches. The currently well-characterised proteins also all share a common mechanism of GTP-dependent polymerisation, in which GTP molecules are sandwiched between successive subunits that are arranged in a head-to-tail manner. However, some poorly-characterised archaeal protein families retain only some of the signature motifs and are unlikely to be capable of dynamic polymerisation, since the promotion of depolymerisation by hydrolysis to GDP depends on contributions from both subunits that sandwich the nucleotide in the polymer.
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