Ancient origins of allosteric activation in a Ser-Thr kinase

A myriad of cellular events are regulated by allostery; therefore, evolution of this process is of fundamental interest. Here, we use ancestral sequence reconstruction to resurrect ancestors of two colocalizing proteins, Aurora A kinase and its allosteric activator TPX2 (targeting protein for Xklp2), to experimentally characterize the evolutionary path of allosteric activation. Autophosphorylation of the activation loop is the most ancient activation mechanism; it is fully developed in the oldest kinase ancestor and has remained stable over 1 billion years of evolution. As the microtubule-associated protein TPX2 appeared, efficient kinase binding to TPX2 evolved, likely owing to increased fitness by virtue of colocalization. Subsequently, TPX2-mediated allosteric kinase regulation gradually evolved. Surprisingly, evolution of this regulation is encoded in the kinase and did not arise by a dominating mechanism of coevolution.