We observe that the time of appearance of cellular compartmentalization correlates with atmospheric oxygen concentration. To explore this correlation, we predict and characterize the topology of all transmembrane proteins in 19 taxa and correlate differences in topology with historical atmospheric oxygen concentrations. Here we show that transmembrane proteins, individually and as a group, were probably selectively excluding oxygen in ancient ancestral taxa, and that this constraint decreased over time when atmospheric oxygen levels rose. As this constraint decreased, the size and number of communication-related transmembrane proteins increased. We suggest the hypothesis that atmospheric oxygen concentrations affected the timing of the evolution of cellular compartmentalization by constraining the size of domains necessary for communication across membranes.
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The authors would like to thank J. Anderson for help with the estimates of the time of appearance of the organisms used for this study, and D. Schomburg, R. Wünschiers, D. Bauer, A. Scialpi, M. Koornneef, H. Hillebrand, A. M. Tarchi, P. Bruni, T. Wiehe, B. Haubold and T. Rothery for valuable discussions. Author Contributions C.A. initiated and devised the project; C.A., S.C. and J.K. analysed the data; and S.C. and C.A. wrote the manuscript.
Reprints and permissions information is available at www.nature.com/reprints. The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Subcellular stoichiogenomics reveal cell evolution and electrostatic interaction mechanisms in cytoskeleton
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