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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2003 Aug;28(2):225-40.

A new phylogenetic marker, apolipoprotein B, provides compelling evidence for eutherian relationships.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of California, Riverside 92521, USA.


Higher-level relationships within, and the root of Placentalia, remain contentious issues. Resolution of the placental tree is important to the choice of mammalian genome projects and model organisms, as well as for understanding the biogeography of the eutherian radiation. We present phylogenetic analyses of 63 species representing all extant eutherian mammal orders for a new molecular phylogenetic marker, a 1.3kb portion of exon 26 of the apolipoprotein B (APOB) gene. In addition, we analyzed a multigene concatenation that included APOB sequences and a previously published data set (Murphy et al., 2001b) of three mitochondrial and 19 nuclear genes, resulting in an alignment of over 17kb for 42 placentals and two marsupials. Due to computational difficulties, previous maximum likelihood analyses of large, multigene concatenations for placental mammals have used quartet puzzling, less complex models of sequence evolution, or phylogenetic constraints to approximate a full maximum likelihood bootstrap. Here, we utilize a Unix load sharing facility to perform maximum likelihood bootstrap analyses for both the APOB and concatenated data sets with a GTR+Gamma+I model of sequence evolution, tree-bisection and reconnection branch-swapping, and no phylogenetic constraints. Maximum likelihood and Bayesian analyses of both data sets provide support for the superordinal clades Boreoeutheria, Euarchontoglires, Laurasiatheria, Xenarthra, Afrotheria, and Ostentoria (pangolins+carnivores), as well as for the monophyly of the orders Eulipotyphla, Primates, and Rodentia, all of which have recently been questioned. Both data sets recovered an association of Hippopotamidae and Cetacea within Cetartiodactyla, as well as hedgehog and shrew within Eulipotyphla. APOB showed strong support for an association of tarsier and Anthropoidea within Primates. Parsimony, maximum likelihood and Bayesian analyses with both data sets placed Afrotheria at the base of the placental radiation. Statistical tests that employed APOB to examine a priori hypotheses for the root of the placental tree rejected rooting on myomorphs and hedgehog, but did not discriminate between rooting at the base of Afrotheria, at the base of Xenarthra, or between Atlantogenata (Xenarthra+Afrotheria) and Boreoeutheria. An orthologous deletion of 363bp in the aligned APOB sequences proved phylogenetically informative for the grouping of the order Carnivora with the order Pholidota into the superordinal clade Ostentoria. A smaller deletion of 237-246bp was diagnostic of the superordinal clade Afrotheria.

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