Serine/Threonine protein kinases from bacteria, archaea and eukarya share a common evolutionary origin deeply rooted in the tree of life

Ivan Andreas Stancik, Martin Sebastijan Šestak, Boyang Ji, Marina Axelson-Fisk, Damjan Franjevic, Carsten Jers, Tomislav Domazet-Lošo, Ivan Mijakovic*

*Corresponding author for this work

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The main family of serine/threonine/tyrosine protein kinases present in eukarya was defined and described by Hanks et al. in 1988. It was initially believed that these kinases do not exist in bacteria, but extensive genome sequencing revealed their existence in many bacteria. For historical reasons, the term "eukaryotic-type kinases" propagated in the literature to describe bacterial members of this protein family. Here, we argue that this term should be abandoned as a misnomer, and we provide several lines of evidence to support this claim. Our comprehensive phylostratigraphic analysis suggests that Hanks-type kinases present in eukarya, bacteria and archaea all share a common evolutionary origin in the lineage leading to the last universal common ancestor (LUCA). We found no evidence to suggest substantial horizontal transfer of genes encoding Hanks-type kinases from eukarya to bacteria. Moreover, our systematic structural comparison suggests that bacterial Hanks-type kinases resemble their eukaryal counterparts very closely, while their structures appear to be dissimilar from other kinase families of bacterial origin. This indicates that a convergent evolution scenario, by which bacterial kinases could have evolved a kinase domain similar to that of eukaryal Hanks-type kinases, is not very likely. Overall, our results strongly support a monophyletic origin of all Hanks-type kinases, and we therefore propose that this term should be adopted as a universal name for this protein family.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)27-32
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Hanks-type kinase
  • Bacterial protein kinase
  • eSTK
  • Eukaryotic-type kinase
  • Phylostratigraphy


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