Tubulin polymerization promoting proteins (TPPPs) constitute a eukaryotic protein family. There are three TPPP paralogs in the human genome, denoted as TPPP1-TPPP3. TPPP1 and TPPP3 are intrinsically unstructured proteins (IUPs) that bind and polymerize tubulin and stabilize microtubules, but TPPP2 does not. Vertebrate TPPPs originated from the ancient invertebrate TPPP by two-round whole-genome duplication; thus, whether the tubulin/microtubule binding function of TPPP1 and TPPP3 is a newly acquired property or was present in the invertebrate orthologs (generally one TPPP per species) has been an open question. To answer this question, we investigated a TPPP from a simple and early branching animal, the sponge Suberites domuncula. Bioinformatics, biochemical, immunochemical, spectroscopic, and electron microscopic data showed that the properties of the sponge protein correspond to those of TPPP1; namely, it is an IUP that strongly binds tubulin and induces its polymerization, proving that these features of animal TPPPs have been evolutionarily conserved.
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