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The emergence of the basement membrane (BM), a specialized form of extracellular matrix, was essential in the unicellular transition to multicellularity. However, the mechanism is unknown. Goodpasture antigen-binding protein (GPBP), a BM protein, was uniquely poised to play diverse roles in this transition owing to its multiple isoforms (GPBP-1, -2, and -3) with varied intracellular and extracellular functions (ceramide trafficker and protein kinase). We sought to determine the evolutionary origin of GPBP isoforms. Our findings reveal the presence of GPBP in unicellular protists, with GPBP-2 as the most ancient isoform. In vertebrates, GPBP-1 assumed extracellular function that is further enhanced by membrane-bound GPBP-3 in mammalians, whereas GPBP-2 retained intracellular function. Moreover, GPBP-2 possesses a dual intracellular/extracellular function in cnidarians, an early nonbilaterian group. We conclude that GPBP functioning both inside and outside the cell was of fundamental importance for the evolutionary transition to animal multicellularity and tissue evolution.
© 2019 Darris et al.