Evolutionary history of metazoan TMEM16 family

Xuye Yuan, Yu Zhu, David Ruiz-Carrillo, Tatsuhiko Kadowaki*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Most of Transmembrane protein 16 (TMEM16) family members function as either a Ca2+-activated Cl- channel (CaCC) or phospholipid scramblase (CaPLSase) and play diverse physiological roles. It is well conserved in eukaryotes; however, the origin and evolution of different subfamilies in Metazoa are not yet understood. To uncover the evolutionary history of the TMEM16 family, we analyzed 398 proteins from 74 invertebrate species using evolutionary genomics. We found that the TMEM16C–F and J subfamilies are vertebrate-specific, but the TMEM16A/B, G, H, and K subfamilies are ancient and present in many, but not all metazoan species. The most ancient subfamilies in Metazoa, TMEM16L and M, are only maintained in limited species. TMEM16N and O are Cnidaria- and Ecdysozoa-specific subfamilies, respectively, and Ctenophora, Xenacoelomorpha, and Rotifera contain species-specific proteins. We also identified TMEM16 genes that are closely linked together in the genome, suggesting that they have been generated via recent gene duplication. The anoctamin domain structures of invertebrate-specific TMEM16 proteins predicted by AlphaFold2 contain conserved Ca2+-binding motifs and permeation pathways with either narrow or wide inner gates. The inner gate distance of TMEM16 protein may have frequently switched during metazoan evolution, and thus determined the function of the protein as either CaCC or CaPLSase. These results demonstrate that TMEM16 family has evolved by gene gain and loss in metazoans, and the genes have been generally under purifying selection to maintain protein structures and physiological functions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107595
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Evolution
  • Gene gain and loss
  • Selective force
  • Structure-function relationship
  • TMEM16 family


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