We isolated the first membrane-bound type 2C serine/threonine protein phosphatase from the ciliated protozoan Paramecium tetraurelia (PtPP2C). Three isozymes of 33, 32, and 31 kDa with a specific activity of 1 mumol.min-1.mg1 were purified from the ciliary membrane. All enzymatic properties including (a) insensitivity toward inhibitors of other protein phosphatase families such as okadaic acid and microcystin, (b) absolute requirement for divalent cations, and (c) substrate specificity tested with synthetic phosphopeptides were identical to mammalian PP2C enzymes and identified the PtPP2C as a canonical PP2C in spite of it being about 25% smaller. The NH2-terminal was blocked. Microsequencing of six tryptic peptides established a relationship to other PP2C enzymes. The PtPP2C gene was obtained using degenerate oligonucleotide primers and the polymerase chain reaction. The gene coded for a 33-kDa protein with 300 amino acids and had an (A+T) content of 62%, typical for this protozoan. Nine of 15 Gln residues are encoded by TAA, a universal stop codon which codes for Gln in Paramecium. A large truncation at the COOH-terminal is responsible for the smaller size of the PtPP2C. Only a single transcript of 1 kilobase was detected with a Northern blot indicating that the 32- and 31-kDa proteins were proteolytic products of the 33-kDa enzyme. Sequence comparisons with PP2C enzymes from rat, rabbit, yeast, Arabidopsis, and Leishmania defined a highly diverged enzyme family which shares three conserved domains, I, II, and III, accounting for about 25% of the primary structure. We demonstrated further that the distances between domains I/II and II/III are very similar in all PP2C enzymes (9-13 and 74-80 amino acids, respectively). However, the amino acid sequences of the spacer regions are unrelated. In addition, the COOH-terminal ends of 100-200 amino acids which comprise 30-50% of the enzyme, display no identity. A dendrogramm shows that PtPP2C surprisingly is most closely related to the mammalian PP2C, and enzymes from Leishmania, Arabidopsis, and yeast are more distant relatives.
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