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Mol Biol Evol. 1999 Aug;16(8):1086-97.

Patterns of genetic diversification within the Adh gene family in the grasses (Poaceae).

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Irvine 92697-2525, USA. bgaut@uci.edu


We investigated the evolutionary dynamics of the Adh gene family within the grasses (Poaceae), with the goal of using molecular evolutionary tools to understand the process of gene family diversification. We analyzed 21 Adh sequences representing a broad array of grasses. Phylogenetic analyses suggested that Adh duplicated into Adh1 and Adh2 before the radiation of the grasses roughly 65 MYA. Gene structure, including intron length, has varied little over this period. Conservation of intron length prompted investigation into the dynamics of intron evolution, particularly the ability of intron sequences to form secondary structures. Intron sequences did not have an extremely high or low minimum free energy of folding relative to permuted sequences, suggesting that individual Adh introns do not evolve under secondary structural constraints. For coding sequences, the diversification of Adh1 and Adh2 was marked by a shift in third-position G + C content. This shift may reflect differential selection for codon use. Diversification between Adh1 and Adh2 was also typified by a shift in nonsynonymous nucleotide substitution rates, but there was no evidence that relatively fast nonsynonymous nucleotide substitution rates in the Adh2 clade were a product of diversifying selection. Gene conversion may have played a role in retarding diversification of Adh1 and Adh2 in rice, but there is no evidence of gene conversion between paralogs in other taxa. Although the reasons for retention of two functional Adh genes remain obscure, we propose that a shift in gene expression was important for the retention of the two Adh gene copies within the grasses.

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