We publish our latest research on the evolution of synaptic proteins in Open Biology, a Royal Society Journal !!
AMPA receptor auxiliary subunits emerged during early vertebrate evolution by neo/subfunctionalization of unrelated proteins
In mammalian synapses, the function of ionotropic glutamate receptors is critically modulated by auxiliary subunits. Most of these specifically regulate the synaptic localization and electrophysiological properties of AMPA-type glutamate receptors (AMPARs). Here, we comprehensively investigated the animal evolution of the protein families that contain AMPAR auxiliary subunits (ARASs). We observed that, on average, vertebrates have four times more ARASs than other animal species. We also demonstrated that ARASs belong to four unrelated protein families: CACNG-GSG1, cornichon, shisa and Dispanin C. Our study demonstrates that, despite the ancient origin of these four protein families, the majority of ARASs emerged during vertebrate evolution by independent but convergent processes of neo/subfunctionalization that resulted in the multiple ARASs found in present vertebrate genomes. Importantly, although AMPARs appeared and diversified in the ancestor of bilateral animals, the ARAS expansion did not occur until much later, in early vertebrate evolution. We propose that the surge in ARASs and consequent increase in AMPAR functionalities, contributed to the increased complexity of vertebrate brains and cognitive functions.