Identification and analysis of evolutionarily cohesive functional modules in protein networks.
The increasing number of sequenced genomes makes it possible to infer the evolutionary history of functional modules, i.e., groups of proteins that contribute jointly to the same cellular function in a given species. Here we identify and analyze those prokaryotic functional modules, whose composition remains largely unchanged during evolution, and study their properties. Such "cohesive" modules have a large number of internal functional connections, encode genes that tend to be in close proximity in prokaryotic genomes, and correspond to physical complexes or complex functional systems like the flagellar apparatus. Cohesive modules are enriched in processes such as energy and amino acid metabolism, cell motility, and intracellular trafficking, or secretion. By grouping genes into modules we achieve a more precise estimate of their age and find that the young modules are often horizontally transferred between species and are enriched in functions involved in interactions with the environment, implying that they play an important role in the adaptation of species to new environments.