Remarkable evolutionary relatedness among the enzymes and proteins from the α-amylase family
Alpha-amylases are widely found in eukaryotes and prokaryotes. Few amino acids are conserved among these organisms, but at an intra-kingdom level, conserved protein domains exist. In animals, numerous conserved stretches are considered as typical of animal alpha-amylases. Searching databases, we found no animal-type alpha-amylases outside the Bilateria. Instead, we found in the sponge Reniera sp. and in the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis, alpha-amylases whose most similar cognate was that of the amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum. We found that this "Dictyo-type" alpha-amylase was shared not only by these non-Bilaterian animals, but also by other Amoebozoa, Choanoflagellates, and Fungi. This suggested that the Dictyo-type alpha-amylase was present in the last common ancestor of Unikonts. The additional presence of the Dictyo-type in some Ciliates and Excavates, suggests that horizontal gene transfers may have occurred among Eukaryotes. We have also detected putative interkingdom transfers of amylase genes, which obscured the historical reconstitution. Several alternative scenarii are discussed.