The alpha subunits of voltage-gated calcium channels (Cavs) are large transmembrane proteins responsible for crucial physiological processes in excitable cells. They are assisted by three auxiliary subunits that can modulate their electrical behavior. Little is known about the evolution and roles of the various subunits of Cavs in nonbilaterian animals and in nonanimal lineages. For this reason, we mapped the phyletic distribution of the four channel subunits and reconstructed their phylogeny. Although alpha subunits have deep evolutionary roots as ancient as the split between plants and opistokonths, beta subunits appeared in the last common ancestor of animals and their close-relatives choanoflagellates, gamma subunits are a bilaterian novelty and alpha2/delta subunits appeared in the lineage of Placozoa, Cnidaria, and Bilateria. We note that gene losses were extremely common in the evolution of Cavs, with noticeable losses in multiple clades of subfamilies and also of whole Cav families. As in vertebrates, but not protostomes, Cav channel genes duplicated in Cnidaria. We characterized by in situ hybridization the tissue distribution of alpha subunits in the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis, a nonbilaterian animal possessing all three Cav subfamilies common to Bilateria. We find that some of the alpha subunit subtypes exhibit distinct spatiotemporal expression patterns. Further, all six sea anemone alpha subunit subtypes are conserved in stony corals, which separated from anemones 500 MA. This unexpected conservation together with the expression patterns strongly supports the notion that these subtypes carry unique functional roles.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.
- Evolution of nervous system
- Ion channel
- Nematostella vectensis
- Voltage-gated calcium channel