Serine/Threonine Protein Kinases from Bacteria, Archaea and Eukarya Share a Common Evolutionary Origin Deeply Rooted in the Tree of Life
Journal article, 2018

The main family of serine/threonine/tyrosine protein kinases present in eukarya was defined and described by Hanks et al. in 1988 (Science, 241, 42–52). 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.

bacterial protein kinase


Hanks-type kinase


eukaryotic-type kinase


Ivan Andreas Stancik

Chalmers, Biology and Biological Engineering, Systems and Synthetic Biology

Technical University of Denmark (DTU)

Martin Sebastijan Šestak

Ruder Boskovic Institute

Boyang Ji

Chalmers, Biology and Biological Engineering, Systems and Synthetic Biology

Marina Axelson-Fisk

Mathematical Statistics

D. Franjevic

University of Zagreb

C. Jers

Technical University of Denmark (DTU)

Tomislav Domazet-Lošo

Ruder Boskovic Institute

Catholic University of Croatia

Ivan Mijakovic

Technical University of Denmark (DTU)

Chalmers, Biology and Biological Engineering, Systems and Synthetic Biology

Journal of Molecular Biology

0022-2836 (ISSN) 10898638 (eISSN)

Vol. 430 1 27-32

Subject Categories


Medical Biotechnology (with a focus on Cell Biology (including Stem Cell Biology), Molecular Biology, Microbiology, Biochemistry or Biopharmacy)

Microbiology in the medical area





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