Origin and evolution of the unique tetra-domain hemoglobin from the hydrothermal vent scale worm branchipolynoe

J. Projecto-Garcia, N. Zorn, D. Jollivet, S. W. Schaeffer, F. H. Lallier, S. Hourdez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Hemoglobin is the most common respiratory pigment in annelids. It can be intra or extracellular, and this latter type can form large multimeric complexes. The hydrothermal vent scale worms Branchipolynoe symmytilida and Branchipolynoe seepensis express an extracellular tetra-domain hemoglobin (Hb) that is unique in annelids. We sequenced the gene for the single-domain and tetra-domain globins in these two species. The single-domain gene codes for a mature protein of 137 amino acids, and the tetra-domain gene codes for a mature protein of 552 amino acids. The single-domain gene has a typical three exon/two intron structure, with introns located at their typical positions (B12.2 and G7.0). This structure is repeated four times in the tetra-domain gene, with no bridge introns or linker sequences between domains. The phylogenetic position of Branchipolynoe globins among known annelid globins revealed that, although extracellular, they cluster within the annelid intracellular globins clade, suggesting that the extracellular state of these Hbs is the result of convergent evolution. The tetra-domain structure likely resulted from two tandem duplications, domain 1 giving rise to domain 2 and after this the two-domain gene duplicated to produce domains 3 and 4. The high O 2 affinity of Branchipolynoe extracellular globins may be explained by the two key residues (B10Y and E7Q) in the heme pocket in each of the domains of the single and tetra-domain globins, which have been shown to be essential in the oxygen-avid Hb from the nematode Ascaris suum. This peculiar globin evolutionary path seems to be very different from other annelid extracellular globins and is most likely the product of evolutionary tinkering associated with the strong selective pressure to adapt to chronic hypoxia that characterizes hydrothermal vents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-152
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular biology and evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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