Evolutionary conservation of complexins: From choanoflagellates to mice

Xiaofei Yang, Jimin Pei, Yea Jin Kaeser-Woo, Taulant Bacaj, Nick V. Grishin, Thomas C. Südhof

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Scopus citations


Complexins are synaptic SNARE complex-binding proteins that cooperate with synaptotagmins in activating Ca2+-stimulated, synaptotagmin-dependent synaptic vesicle exocytosis and in clamping spontaneous, synaptotagmin-independent synaptic vesicle exocytosis. Here, we show that complexin sequences are conserved in some non-metazoan unicellular organisms and in all metazoans, suggesting that complexins are a universal feature of metazoans that predate metazoan evolution. We show that complexin from Nematostella vectensis, a cnidarian sea anemone far separated from mammals in metazoan evolution, functionally replaces mouse complexins in activating Ca2+-triggered exocytosis, but is unable to clamp spontaneous exocytosis. Thus, the activating function of complexins is likely conserved throughout metazoan evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1308-1317
Number of pages10
JournalEMBO Reports
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015


  • SNARE proteins
  • evolution
  • membrane fusion
  • synapse
  • synaptotagmin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics

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    Yang, X., Pei, J., Kaeser-Woo, Y. J., Bacaj, T., Grishin, N. V., & Südhof, T. C. (2015). Evolutionary conservation of complexins: From choanoflagellates to mice. EMBO Reports, 16(10), 1308-1317. https://doi.org/10.15252/embr.201540305