Phylogenomic analyses reveal the evolutionary origin of the inhibin α-subunit, a unique TGFβ superfamily antagonist

Jie Zhu*, Edward L. Braun, Satomi Kohno, Monica Antenos, Eugene Y. Xu, Robert W. Cook, S. Jack Lin, Brandon C. Moore, Louis J. Guillette, Theodore S. Jardetzky, Teresa K. Woodruff

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Transforming growth factor-beta (TGFβ) homologues form a diverse superfamily that arose early in animal evolution and control cellular function through membrane-spanning, conserved serine-threonine kinases (RII and RI receptors). Activin and inhibin are related dimers within the TGFβ superfamily that share a common β-subunit. The evolution of the inhibin α-subunit created the only antagonist within the TGFβ superfamily and the only member known to act as an endocrine hormone. This hormone introduced a new level of complexity and control to vertebrate reproductive function. The novel functions of the inhibin α-subunit appear to reflect specific insertion-deletion changes within the inhibin β-subunit that occurred during evolution. Using phylogenomic analysis, we correlated specific insertions with the acquisition of distinct functions that underlie the phenotypic complexity of vertebrate reproductive processes. This phylogenomic approach presents a new way of understanding the structure-function relationships between inhibin, activin, and the larger TGFβ superfamily.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere9457
JournalPloS one
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 4 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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