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Genome Res. 2004 May;14(5):802-11.

The functional genomic distribution of protein divergence in two animal phyla: coevolution, genomic conflict, and constraint.

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  • 1Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.


We compare the functional spectrum of protein evolution in two separate animal lineages with respect to two hypotheses: (1) rates of divergence are distributed similarly among functional classes within both lineages, indicating that selective pressure on the proteome is largely independent of organismic-level biological requirements; and (2) rates of divergence are distributed differently among functional classes within each lineage, indicating species-specific selective regimes impact genome-wide substitutional patterns. Integrating comparative genome sequence with data from tissue-specific expressed-sequence-tag (EST) libraries and detailed database annotations, we find a functional genomic signature of rapid evolution and selective constraint shared between mammalian and nematode lineages despite their extensive morphological and ecological differences and distant common ancestry. In both phyla, we find evidence of accelerated evolution among components of molecular systems involved in coevolutionary change. In mammals, lineage-specific fast evolving genes include those involved in reproduction, immunity, and possibly, maternal-fetal conflict. Likelihood ratio tests provide evidence for positive selection in these rapidly evolving functional categories in mammals. In contrast, slowly evolving genes, in terms of amino acid or insertion/deletion (indel) change, in both phyla are involved in core molecular processes such as transcription, translation, and protein transport. Thus, strong purifying selection appears to act on the same core cellular processes in both mammalian and nematode lineages, whereas positive and/or relaxed selection acts on different biological processes in each lineage.

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