Evolutionary origin of a Kunitz-type trypsin inhibitor domain inserted in the amyloid beta precursor protein of Alzheimer's disease.
The Kunitz-type protease inhibitor is one of the serine protease inhibitors. It is found in blood, saliva, and all tissues in mammals. Recently, a Kunitz-type sequence was found in the protein sequence of the amyloid beta precursor protein (beta APP). It is known that beta APP accumulates in the neuritic plaques and cerebrovascular deposits of patients with Alzheimer's disease. Collagen type VI in chicken also has an insertion of a Kunitz-type sequence. To elucidate the evolutionary origin of these insertion sequences, we constructed a phylogenetic tree by use of all the available sequences of Kunitz-type inhibitors. The tree shows that the ancestral gene of the Kunitz-type inhibitor appeared about 500 million years ago. Thereafter, this gene duplicated itself many times, and some of the duplicates were inserted into other protein-coding genes. During this process, the Kunitz-type sequence in the present beta APP gene diverged from its ancestral gene about 270 million years ago and was inserted into the gene soon after duplication. Although the function of the insertion sequences is unknown, our molecular evolutionary analysis shows that these insertion sequences in beta APP have an evolutionarily close relationship with the inter-alpha-trypsin inhibitor or trypstatin, which inhibits the activity of tryptase, a novel membrane-bound serine protease in human T4+ lymphocytes.