Type I and type II keratins have evolved from lower eukaryotes to form the epidermal intermediate filaments in mammalian skin.
We have traced the evolutionary origins of keratin-like sequences to the genomes of lower eukaryotes. The proteins encoded by these genes have evolved to form the intermediate filaments that comprise the backbone of vertebrate skin cells. Two related but distinct types of keratins encoded by two separate multigene subfamilies are expressed in the epidermal keratinocytes of vertebrate species from fish to human. Both at the level of protein and at the level of DNA, these two classes of keratins are coordinately conserved throughout vertebrate evolution, indicating the central role that both types of keratins must play in the assembly and structure of the 8-nm filament.
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