Transmembrane domain lengths serve as signatures of organismal complexity and viral transport mechanisms

Membrane proteins, anchored by their transmembrane domains (TMDs) in biological membranes, play several key roles in the life of every living cell. The primary objective of this study was to explore possible linkages in organisms with varying "complexity" and differences in TMD lengths of membrane proteins associated with different cellular organelles (such as Endoplasmic Reticulum, Golgi, Endosomes, Nucleus, Plasma Membrane) to shed insights into evolution of eukaryotic cell systems.

Singh and Mittal report that as one moves from simpler to complex organisms, variation in organellar TMD lengths decreases, especially compared to their respective plasma membranes, with increasing organismal complexity. This suggests an evolutionary pressure in modulating length of TMDs of membrane proteins with increasing complexity of communication between sub-cellular compartments. Singh and Mittal also report functional applications of the findings by discovering remarkable distinctions in TMD lengths of membrane proteins associated with different intracellular transport pathways. They show that TMD lengths extracted from viral proteins can serve as somewhat weak indicators of viral replication sites in plant cells but very strong indicators of different entry pathways employed by animal viruses.

Contact details: 

Prof. Aditya Mittal

School of Biological Sciences