Xylanases are classified into two families, numbered F/10 and G/11 according to the similarity of amino acid sequences of their catalytic domain (Henrissat, B., Bairoch, A., 1993. New families in the classification of glycosyl hydrolases based on amino acid sequence similarities. Biochem. J. 293, 781-788). Three-dimensional structure of the catalytic domain of the family F/10 xylanase was reported (White, A., Withers, S.G., Gilkes, N.R., Rose, D.R., 1994. Crystal structure of the catalytic domain of the β-1,4-glycanase Cex from Cellulomonas fimi. Biochemistry 33, 12546-12552). The domain was decomposed into 22 modules by centripetal profiles (Go , M., Nosaka, M., 1987. Protein architecture and the origin of introns. Cold Spring Harbor Symp. Quant. Biol. 52, 915-924; Noguti, T., Sakakibara, H., Go: , M., 1993. Localization of hydrogen-bonds within modules in barnase. Proteins 16, 357-363). A module is a contiguous polypeptide segment of amino acid residues having a compact conformation within a globular domain. Collected 31 intron sites of the family F/10 xylanase genes from fungus were found to be correlated to module boundaries with considerable statistical force (p values <0.001). The relationship between the intron locations and protein structures provides supporting evidence for the ancient origin of introns, because such a relationship cannot be expected by random insertion of introns into eukaryotic genes, but it rather suggests pre-existence of introns in the ancestral genes of prokaryotes and eukaryotes. A phylogenetic tree of the fungal and bacterial xylanase sequences made two clusters; one includes both the bacterial and fungal genes, but the other consists of only fungal genes. The mixed cluster of bacterial genes without introns and the fungal genes with introns further supports the ancient origin of introns. Comparison of the conserved base sequences of introns indicates that sliding of a splice site occurred in Aspergillus kawachii gene by one base from the ancestral position. Substrate-binding sites of xylanase are localized on eight modules, and introns are found at both termini of six out of these functional modules. This result suggests that introns might play a functional role in shuffling the exons encoding the substrate-binding modules. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
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