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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Aug 1990; 87(16): 6277–6280.

Evidence for neutral and selective processes in the recruitment of enzyme-crystallins in avian lenses.


In apparent contrast to most other tissues, the ocular lenses in vertebrates show striking differences in protein composition between taxa, most notably in the recruitment of different enzymes as major structural proteins. This variability appears to be the result of at least partially neutral evolutionary processes, although there is also evidence for selective modification in molecular structure. Here we describe a bird, the chimney swift (Chaetura pelagica), that lacks delta-crystallin/argininosuccinate lyase, usually the major crystallin of avian lenses. Clearly, delta-crystallin is not specifically required for a functionally effective avian lens. Furthermore the lens composition of the swift is more similar to that of the related hummingbirds than to that of the barn swallow (Hirundo rustica), suggesting that phylogeny is more important than environmental selection in the recruitment of crystallins. However differences in epsilon-crystallin/lactate dehydrogenase-B sequence between swift and hummingbird and other avian and reptilian species suggest that selective pressures may also be working at the molecular level. These differences also confirm the close relationship between swifts and hummingbirds.

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Selected References

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