Plasma membrane-located nucleotide transport proteins (NTTs) underpin the lifestyle of important obligate intracellular bacterial and eukaryotic pathogens by importing energy and nucleotides from infected host cells that the pathogens can no longer make for themselves. As such their presence is often seen as a hallmark of an intracellular lifestyle associated with reductive genome evolution and loss of primary biosynthetic pathways. Here, we investigate the phylogenetic distribution of NTT sequences across the domains of cellular life. Our analysis reveals an unexpectedly broad distribution of NTT genes in both host-associated and free-living prokaryotes and eukaryotes. We also identify cases of within-bacteria and bacteria-to-eukaryote horizontal NTT transfer, including into the base of the oomycetes, a major clade of parasitic eukaryotes. In addition to identifying sequences that retain the canonical NTT structure, we detected NTT gene fusions with HEAT-repeat and cyclic nucleotide binding domains in Cyanobacteria, pathogenic Chlamydiae, and Oomycetes. Our results suggest that NTTs are versatile functional modules with a much wider distribution and a broader range of potential roles than has previously been appreciated.
- nucleotide transport proteins