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Archaea
Volume 1 (2002), Issue 1, Pages 35-44
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2002/419261
Review Article

Common evolutionary origins of mechanosensitive ion channels in Archaea, Bacteria and cell-walled Eukarya

Department of Pharmacology, University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia

Received 16 July 2001; Accepted 24 September 2001

Copyright © 2002 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

The ubiquity of mechanosensitive (MS) channels triggered a search for their functional homologs in Archaea. Archaeal MS channels were found to share a common ancestral origin with bacterial MS channels of large and small conductance, and sequence homology with several proteins that most likely function as MS ion channels in prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell-walled organisms. Although bacterial and archaeal MS channels differ in conductive and mechanosensitive properties, they share similar gating mechanisms triggered by mechanical force transmitted via the lipid bilayer. In this review, we suggest that MS channels of Archaea can bridge the evolutionary gap between bacterial and eukaryotic MS channels, and that MS channels of Bacteria, Archaea and cell-walled Eukarya may serve similar physiological functions and may have evolved to protect the fragile cellular membranes in these organisms from excessive dilation and rupture upon osmotic challenge.