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Origin and diversification of the plasminogen activation system among chordates

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Background: The plasminogen (PLG) activation system is composed by a series of serine proteases, inhibitors and several binding proteins, which together control the temporal and spatial generation of the active serine protease plasmin. As this proteolytic system plays a central role in human physiology and pathophysiology it has been extensively studied in mammals. The serine proteases of this system are believed to originate from an ancestral gene by gene duplications followed by domain gains and deletions. However, the identification of ancestral forms in primitive chordates supporting these theories remains elusive. In addition, evolutionary studies of the non-proteolytic members of this system are scarce. Results: Our phylogenetic analyses place lamprey PLG at the root of the vertebrate PLG-group, while lamprey PLG-related growth factors represent the ancestral forms of the jawed-vertebrate orthologues. Furthermore, we find that the earliest putative orthologue of the PLG activator group is the hyaluronan binding protein 2 (HABP2) gene found in lampreys. The prime plasminogen activators (tissue- and urokinase-type plasminogen activator, tPA and uPA) first occur in cartilaginous fish and phylogenetic analyses confirm that all orthologues identified compose monophyletic groups to their mammalian counterparts. Cartilaginous fishes exhibit the most ancient vitronectin of all vertebrates, while plasminogen activator inhibitor 1 (PAI-1) appears for the first time in cartilaginous fishes and is conserved in the rest of jawed vertebrate clades. PAI-2 appears for the first time in the common ancestor of reptiles and mammals, and represents the latest appearing plasminogen activator inhibitor. Finally, we noted that the urokinase-type plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR) - and three-LU domain containing genes in general - occurred later in evolution and was first detectable after coelacanths. Conclusions: This study identifies several primitive orthologues of the mammalian plasminogen activation system. These ancestral forms provide clues to the origin and diversification of this enzyme system. Further, the discovery of several members - hitherto unknown in mammals - provide new perspectives on the evolution of this important enzyme system.

Original languageEnglish
Article number27
JournalBMC Evolutionary Biology
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jan 2019

    Research areas

  • Chordates, Evolution, Phylogenetic analysis, Plasminogen, Plasminogen activation system, Transcriptome analysis, Amino Acid Sequence, Humans, Phylogeny, Transcriptome/genetics, Genetic Variation, Likelihood Functions, Animals, Sequence Analysis, RNA, Databases, Protein, Plasminogen/genetics, Plasminogen Activator Inhibitor 1/chemistry, Protein Domains, Vitronectin/chemistry, Urokinase-Type Plasminogen Activator/chemistry, Chordata/genetics

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