Internal duplication can enhance the function of a gene or provide raw material for the emergence of a new function in a gene. Therefore, it is interesting to see whether the frequency of internal duplication has increased during metazoan evolution. The growing number of sequenced eukaryotic genomes provides an excellent opportunity to study the change in the pattern of internal duplication in the course of metazoan evolution. We studied repeated segments in proteins in the proteomes of 11 eukaryotes. We found that the frequency of internal duplication in Caenorhabditis elegans and Drosophila melanogaster (two protostomes) is higher than that in fungi but lower than that in chordates. Moreover, the frequencies of internal duplication for the chordates studied are largely similar. We classified orthologous proteins of chordates into three antiquity groups and found that more recently derived proteins in the metazoan lineage have higher repetitiveness than older ones. Our analysis suggests that lineage-specific internal duplication in protein evolution increases with organismal complexity before the emergence of chordates but not so afterward. Proteins with repeated regions might have been preferred before the protostome-chordate split. This finding supports the suggestion that exon-shuffling occurred more frequently after the first multicellular organism appeared and might have contributed to the metazoan radiation.
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