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We have analyzed the relationships of homologues of the Escherichia coli CcmC protein for probable topological features and evolutionary relationships. We present bioinformatic evidence suggesting that the integral membrane proteins CcmC (E. coli; cytochrome c biogenesis System I), CcmF (E. coli; cytochrome c biogenesis System I) and ResC (Bacillus subtilis; cytochrome c biogenesis System II) are all related. Though the molecular functions of these proteins have not been fully described, they appear to be involved in the provision of heme to c-type cytochromes, and so we have named them the putative Heme Handling Protein (HHP) family (TC #9.B.14). Members of this family exhibit 6, 8, 10, 11, 13 or 15 putative transmembrane segments (TMSs). We show that intragenic triplication of a 2 TMS element gave rise to a protein with a 6 TMS topology, exemplified by CcmC. This basic 6 TMS unit then gave rise to two distinct types of proteins with 8 TMSs, exemplified by ResC and the archaeal CcmC, and these further underwent fusional or insertional events yielding proteins with 10, 11 and 13 TMSs (ResC homologues) as well as 15 TMSs (CcmF homologues). Specific evolutionary pathways taken are proposed. This work provides the first evidence for the pathway of appearance of distantly related proteins required for post-translational maturation of c-type cytochromes in bacteria, plants, protozoans and archaea.

Original publication




Journal article


Biochim Biophys Acta

Publication Date





2164 - 2181


Amino Acid Sequence, Base Sequence, Conserved Sequence, Cytochrome c Group, DNA Mutational Analysis, Evolution, Molecular, Membrane Proteins, Molecular Sequence Data, Origin of Life, Sequence Homology, Amino Acid, Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid