Peroxisomes, glyoxysomes, glycosomes, and hydrogenosomes have each been classified as microbodies, i.e., subcellular organelles with an electron-dense matrix that is bound by a single membrane. We investigated whether these organelles might share a common evolutionary origin by asking if targeting signals used for translocation of proteins into these microbodies are related. A peroxisomal targeting signal (PTS) consisting of the COOH-terminal tripeptide serine-lysine-leucine-COOH has been identified in a number of peroxisomal proteins (Gould, S.J., G.-A. Keller, N. Hosken, J. Wilkinson, and S. Subramani. 1989. J. Cell Biol. 108:1657-1664). Antibodies raised to a peptide ending in this sequence (SKL-COOH) recognize a number of peroxisomal proteins. Immunocryoelectron microscopy experiments using this anti-SKL antibody revealed the presence of proteins containing the PTS within glyoxysomes of cells from Pichia pastoris, germinating castor bean seeds, and Neurospora crassa, as well as within the glycosomes of Trypanosoma brucei. Western blot analysis of purified organelle fractions revealed the presence of many proteins containing this PTS in both glyoxysomes and glycosomes. These results indicate that at least one of the signals, and therefore the mechanism, for protein translocation into peroxisomes, glyoxysomes, and glycosomes has been conserved, lending support to a common evolutionary origin for these microbodies. Hydrogenosomes, the fourth type of microbody, did not contain proteins that cross-reacted with the anti-PTS antibody, suggesting that this organelle is unrelated to microbodies.

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