Petit, D., Teppa, E., Mir, A., Vicogne, D., Thisse, C., Thisse, B., Filloux, C., Harduin-Lepers, A. (2015) Integrative view of α2,3-sialyltransferases (ST3Gal) molecular and functional evolution in deuterostomes: significance of lineage specific losses. Mol. Biol. Evol.. 32(4):906-27.
Sialyltransferases are responsible for the synthesis of a diverse range of sialoglycoconjugates predicted to be pivotal to deuterostomes' evolution. In the present work, we reconstructed the evolutionary history of the metazoan α2,3-sialyltransferases family (ST3Gal), a subset of sialyltransferases encompassing six subfamilies (ST3Gal I to ST3Gal VI) functionally characterized in mammals. Exploration of genomic and EST databases and search of conserved sialylmotifs led to the identification of a large data set of st3gal-related gene sequences. Molecular phylogeny and large scale sequence similarity network analysis identified four new vertebrate subfamilies called ST3Gal III-r, ST3Gal VII, ST3Gal VIII and ST3Gal IX. To address the issue of the origin and evolutionary relationships of the st3gal-related genes, we performed comparative syntenic mapping of st3gal gene loci combined to ancestral genome reconstruction. The ten vertebrate ST3Gal subfamilies originated from genome duplication events at the base of vertebrates and are organized in three distinct and ancient groups of genes predating the early deuterostomes. Inferring st3gal gene family history identified also several lineage-specific gene losses, the significance of which was explored in a functional context. Towards this aim, spatio-temporal distribution of st3gal genes was analyzed in zebrafish and bovine tissues. In addition, molecular evolutionary analyses using specificity determining position and co-evolved amino acid predictions led to the identification of amino acid residues with potential implication in functional divergence of vertebrate ST3Gal. We propose a detailed scenario of the evolutionary relationships of st3gal genes coupled to a conceptual framework of the evolution of ST3Gal functions.