Coenzyme A (CoA) holds a central position in cellular metabolism and therefore can be assumed to be an ancient molecule. Starting from the known E. coli and human enzymes required for the biosynthesis of CoA, phylogenetic profiles and chromosomal proximity methods enabled an almost complete reconstruction of archaeal CoA biosynthesis. This includes the identification of strong candidates for archaeal pantothenate synthetase and pantothenate kinase, which are unrelated to the corresponding bacterial or eukaryotic enzymes.
According to this reconstruction, the topology of CoA synthesis from common precursors is essentially conserved across the three domains of life. The CoA pathway is conserved to varying degrees in eukaryotic pathogens like Giardia lamblia or Plasmodium falciparum, indicating that these pathogens have individual uptake-mechanisms for different CoA precursors. Phylogenetic analysis and phyletic distribution of the CoA biosynthetic enzymes suggest that the enzymes required for the synthesis of phosphopantothenate were recruited independently in the bacterial and archaeal lineages by convergent evolution, and that eukaryotes inherited the genes for the synthesis of pantothenate (vitamin B5) from bacteria. Homologues to bacterial enzymes involved in pantothenate biosynthesis are present in a subset of archaeal genomes.
The phylogenies of these enzymes indicate that they were acquired from bacterial thermophiles through horizontal gene transfer. Monophyly can be inferred for each of the enzymes catalysing the four ultimate steps of CoA synthesis, the conversion of phosphopantothenate into CoA. The results support the notion that CoA was initially synthesized from a prebiotic precursor, most likely pantothenate or a related compound.