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Genetics. 2002 May; 161(1): 259–267.
PMCID: PMC1462118

Subfunctionalization of duplicate mitf genes associated with differential degeneration of alternative exons in fish.


The microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (MITF) exists in at least four isoforms. These are generated in higher vertebrates using alternative 5' exons and promoters from a single gene. Two separate genes (mitf-m and mitf-b), however, are present in different teleost fish species including the poeciliid Xiphophorus, the pufferfishes Fugu rubripes and Tetraodon nigroviridis, and the zebrafish Danio rerio. Fish proteins MITF-m and MITF-b correspond at both the structural and the expression levels to one particular bird/mammalian MITF isoform. In the teleost lineage subfunctionalization of mitf genes after duplication at least 100 million years ago is associated with the degeneration of alternative exons and, probably, regulatory elements and promoters. For example, a remnant of the first exon specific for MITF-m is detected within the pufferfish gene encoding MITF-b. Retracing the evolutionary history of mitf genes in vertebrates uncovered the differential recruitment of new introns specific for either the teleost or the bird/mammalian lineage.

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Selected References

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