Renault H, De Marothy M, Jonasson G, Lara P, Nelson DR, Nilsson I, André F, von Heijne G, Werck-Reichhart D
Mol. Biol. Evol. 34 (8) 2041-2056 [2017-08-01; online 2017-05-16]
Evolution of the phenolic metabolism was critical for the transition of plants from water to land. A cytochrome P450, CYP73, with cinnamate 4-hydroxylase (C4H) activity, catalyzes the first plant-specific and rate-limiting step in this pathway. The CYP73 gene is absent from green algae, and first detected in bryophytes. A CYP73 duplication occurred in the ancestor of seed plants and was retained in Taxaceae and most angiosperms. In spite of a clear divergence in primary sequence, both paralogs can fulfill comparable cinnamate hydroxylase roles both in vitro and in vivo. One of them seems dedicated to the biosynthesis of lignin precursors. Its N-terminus forms a single membrane spanning helix and its properties and length are highly constrained. The second is characterized by an elongated and variable N-terminus, reminiscent of ancestral CYP73s. Using as proxies the Brachypodium distachyon proteins, we show that the elongation of the N-terminus does not result in an altered subcellular localization, but in a distinct membrane topology. Insertion in the membrane of endoplasmic reticulum via a double-spanning open hairpin structure allows reorientation to the lumen of the catalytic domain of the protein. In agreement with participation to a different functional unit and supramolecular organization, the protein displays modified heme proximal surface. These data suggest the evolution of divergent C4H enzymes feeding different branches of the phenolic network in seed plants. It shows that specialization required for retention of gene duplicates may result from altered protein topology rather than change in enzyme activity.