The ubiquitous and ancient ER membrane protein complex (EMC): Tether or not?

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65 Scopus citations


The recently discovered endoplasmic reticulum (ER) membrane protein complex (EMC) has been implicated in ER-associated degradation (ERAD), lipid transport and tethering between the ER and mitochondrial outer membranes, and assembly of multipass ER-membrane proteins. The EMC has been studied in both animals and fungi but its presence outside the Opisthokont clade (animals + fungi + related protists) has not been demonstrated. Here, using homology-searching algorithms, I show that the EMC is truly an ancient and conserved protein complex, present in every major eukaryotic lineage. Very few organisms have completely lost the EMC, and most, even over 2 billion years of eukaryote evolution, have retained a majority of the complex members. I identify Sop4 and YDR056C in Saccharomyces cerevisiae as Emc7 and Emc10, respectively, subunits previously thought to be specific to animals. This study demonstrates that the EMC was present in the last eukaryote common ancestor (LECA) and is an extremely important component of eukaryotic cells even though its primary function remains elusive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number624
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • ER membrane protein complex (EMC)
  • ER-mitochondria contact sites
  • Evolutionary cell biology
  • Membrane contact sites (MCS)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)


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