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Sialidases are glycohydrolytic enzymes present from virus to mammals that remove sialic acid from oligosaccharide chains. Four different sialidase forms are known in vertebrates: the lysosomal NEU1, the cytosolic NEU2 and the membrane-associated NEU3 and NEU4. These enzymes modulate the cell sialic acid content and are involved in several cellular processes and pathological conditions. Molecular defects in NEU1 are responsible for sialidosis, an inherited disease characterized by lysosomal storage disorder and neurodegeneration. The studies on the biology of sialic acids and sialyltransferases, the anabolic counterparts of sialidases, have revealed a complex picture with more than 50 sialic acid variants selectively present in the different branches of the tree of life. The gain/loss of specific sialoconjugates have been proposed as key events in the evolution of deuterostomes and Homo sapiens, as well as in the host-pathogen interactions. To date, less attention has been paid to the evolution of sialidases. Thus we have conducted a survey on the state of the sialidase family in metazoan. Using an in silico approach, we identified and characterized sialidase orthologs from 21 different organisms distributed among the evolutionary tree: Metazoa relative (Monosiga brevicollis), early Deuterostomia, precursor of Chordata and Vertebrata (teleost fishes, amphibians, reptiles, avians and early and recent mammals). We were able to reconstruct the evolution of the sialidase protein family from the ancestral sialidase NEU1 and identify a new form of the enzyme, NEU5, representing an intermediate step in the evolution leading to the modern NEU3, NEU4 and NEU2. Our study provides new insights on the mechanisms that shaped the substrate specificity and other peculiar properties of the modern mammalian sialidases. Moreover, we further confirm findings on the catalytic residues and identified enzyme loop portions that behave as rapidly diverging regions and may be involved in the evolution of specific properties of sialidases.

Original publication

DOI

10.1371/journal.pone.0044193

Type

Journal article

Journal

PloS one

Publication Date

01/2012

Volume

7

Addresses

Department of Biomedical Sciences and Biotechnology, Unit of Biology and Genetics, University of Brescia, Brescia, Italy.

Keywords

Animals, Vertebrates, Humans, Neuraminidase, Sialyltransferases, Amino Acids, Mutagenesis, Insertional, Computational Biology, Evolution, Molecular, Phylogeny, Amino Acid Sequence, Catalytic Domain, Base Sequence, Conserved Sequence, Protein Structure, Secondary, Synteny, Substrate Specificity, Phosphorylation, Multigene Family, Exons, Models, Molecular, Molecular Sequence Data, Biocatalysis