Domain shuffling, which is an important mechanism in the evolution of multi-domain proteins, has shaped the evolutionary development of the immune system in animals. Toll and Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are a class of proteins that play a key role in the innate and adaptive immune systems. Draft genome sequences provide the opportunity to compare the Toll/TLR gene repertoire among representative metazoans. In this study, we investigated the combination of Toll/interleukin-1 receptor (TIR) and leucine-rich repeat (LRR) domains of metazoan Toll/TLRs. Before Toll with both domains occurred in Cnidaria (sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis), through domain combinations, TIR-only and LRR-only proteins had already appeared in sponges (Amphimedon queenslandica). Although vertebrate-like TIR (V-TIR) domain already appeared in Cnidaria, the vertebrate-like TLR (V-TLR) with both domains appeared much later. The first combination between V-TIR domain and vertebrate-like LRR (V-LRR) domain for V-TLR may have occurred after the divergence of Cnidaria and bilateria. Then, another combination for V-TLR, a recombination of both domains, possibly occurred before or during the evolution of primitive vertebrates. Taken together, two rounds of domain combinations may thus have co-shaped the vertebrate TLRs.
Volume 100, 2021
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