Background: Small leucine-rich repeat protein (SLRP) family members contain conserved leucine-rich repeat motifs flanked by highly variable N- and C-terminal regions. Most class II and III SLRPs have tyrosine-rich N-terminal regions and some of these are sulfated. However, the evolutionary origin and conservation of the tyrosine-rich and acidic terminal regions remain undetermined. In this study, we present the most comprehensive multiple sequence alignment (MSA) analyses of all eight class II and III SLRPs to date. Based on the level of conservation of tyrosine residues and adjacent sequences, we predict which tyrosine residues are most likely to be sulfated in the terminal regions of human class II and III SLRPs. Results: Using this novel approach, we predict a total of 22 tyrosine sulfation sites in human SLRPs, of which only 8 sites had been experimentally identified in mammals. Our analyses suggest that sulfation-prone, tyrosine-rich and acidic terminal regions of the class II and III SLRPs emerged via convergent evolution at different stages of vertebrate evolution, coinciding with significant evolutionary events including the development of endochondral bones and articular cartilage, the aquatic to terrestrial transition, and the formation of an amnion. Conclusions: Our study suggests that selective pressures due to changes in life conditions led to the formation of sulfotyrosine-rich and acidic terminal regions. We believe the independent emergence and evolution of sulfotyrosine-rich and acidic N- and C-terminal regions have provided each class II and III SLRP member with novel vital functions required to develop new specialized extracellular matrices and tissues in vertebrate species.
- Extracellular matrix
- Multiple sequence alignment
- Small leucine-rich repeat protein (SLRP)
- Tyrosine sulfation