Author(s): Ramadas R, Thattai M
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Abstract Extant eukaryotic cells have a dynamic traffic network that consists of diverse membrane-bound organelles exchanging matter via vesicles. This endomembrane system arose and diversified during a period characterized by massive expansions of gene families involved in trafficking after the acquisition of a mitochondrial endosymbiont by a prokaryotic host cell >1.8 billion years ago. Here we investigate the mechanistic link between gene duplication and the emergence of new nonendosymbiotic organelles, using a minimal biophysical model of traffic. Our model incorporates membrane-bound compartments, coat proteins and adaptors that drive vesicles to bud and segregate cargo from source compartments, and SNARE proteins and associated factors that cause vesicles to fuse into specific destination compartments. In simulations, arbitrary numbers of compartments with heterogeneous initial compositions segregate into a few compositionally distinct subsets that we term organelles. The global structure of the traffic system (i.e., the number, composition, and connectivity of organelles) is determined completely by local molecular interactions. On evolutionary timescales, duplication of the budding and fusion machinery followed by loss of cross-interactions leads to the emergence of new organelles, with increased molecular specificity being necessary to maintain larger organellar repertoires. These results clarify potential modes of early eukaryotic evolution as well as more recent eukaryotic diversification. Copyright © 2013 Biophysical Society. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
This article was published in Biophys J
and referenced in Research & Reviews: Journal of Chemistry