Comparative genomic studies have led to the recent identification of several novel globin types in the Metazoa. They have revealed a surprising evolutionary diversity of functions beyond the familiar O2 supply roles of hemoglobin and myoglobin. Here we report the discovery of a hitherto unrecognized family of proteins with a unique modular architecture, possessing an N-terminal calpain-like domain, an internal, circular permuted globin domain, and an IQ calmodulin-binding motif. Putative orthologs are present in the genomes of many metazoan taxa, including vertebrates.
The calpain-like region is homologous to the catalytic domain II of the large subunit of human calpain-7. The globin domain satisfies the criteria of a myoglobin-like fold but is rearranged and split into two parts. The recombinantly expressed human globin domain exhibits an absorption spectrum characteristic of hexacoordination of the heme iron atom. Molecular evolutionary analyses indicate that this chimeric globin family is phylogenetically ancient and originated in the common ancestor to animals and choanoflagellates. In humans and mice, the gene is predominantly expressed in testis tissue, and we propose the name ‘‘androglobin’’ (Adgb). Expression is associated with postmeiotic stages of spermatogenesis and is insensitive to experimental hypoxia. Evidence exists for increased gene expression in fertile compared with infertile males.