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Am J Hum Genet. 2001 Jan;68(1):275-80. Epub 2000 Dec 7.

Primate DAX1, SRY, and SOX9: evolutionary stratification of sex-determination pathway.

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  • 1Department of Physiological Science, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


The molecular evolution of DAX1, SRY, and SOX9, genes involved in mammalian sex determination, was examined in six primate species. DAX1 and SRY have been added to the X and Y chromosomes, respectively, during mammalian evolution, whereas SOX9 remains autosomal. We determined the genomic sequences of DAX1, SRY, and SOX9 in all six species, and calculated K(a), the number of nonsynonymous substitutions per nonsynonymous site, and compared this with the K(s), the number of synonymous substitutions per synonymous site. Phylogenetic trees were constructed by means of the DAX1, SRY, and SOX9 coding sequences, and phylogenetic analysis was performed using maximum likelihood. Overall measures of gene and protein similarity were closer for DAX1 and SOX9, but DAX1 exhibited nonsynonymous amino acid substitutions at an accelerated frequency relative to synonymous changes, similar to SRY and significantly higher than SOX9. We conclude that, at the protein level, DAX1 and SRY are under less selective pressure to remain conserved than SOX9, and, therefore, diverge more across species than does SOX9. These results are consistent with evolutionary stratification of the mammalian sex determination pathway, analogous to that for sex chromosomes.

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