Vertebrate proteins that fulfill multiple and seemingly disparate functions are increasingly recognized as vital solutions to maintaining homeostasis in the face of the complex cell and tissue physiology of higher metazoans. However, the molecular adaptations that underpin this increased functionality remain elusive. In this Commentary, we review the PACS proteins -which first appeared in lower metazoans as protein traffic modulators and evolved in vertebrates to integrate cytoplasmic protein traffic and interorganellar communication with nuclear gene expression -as examples of protein adaptation 'caught in the act'. Vertebrate PACS-1 and PACS-2 increased their functional density and roles as metabolic switches by acquiring phosphorylation sites and nuclear trafficking signals within disordered regions of the proteins. These findings illustrate one mechanism by which vertebrates accommodate their complex cell physiology with a limited set of proteins. We will also highlight how pathogenic viruses exploit the PACS sorting pathways as well as recent studies on PACS genes with mutations or altered expression that result in diverse diseases. These discoveries suggest that investigation of the evolving PACS protein family provides a rich opportunity for insight into vertebrate cell and organ homeostasis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology