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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Sep 1;95(18):10676-81.

Nonsynonymous substitution in abalone sperm fertilization genes exceeds substitution in introns and mitochondrial DNA.

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  • 1Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0202, USA.


Strong positive Darwinian selection acts on two sperm fertilization proteins, lysin and 18-kDa protein, from abalone (Haliotis). To understand the phylogenetic context for this dramatic molecular evolution, we obtained sequences of mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (mtCOI), and genomic sequences of lysin, 18-kDa, and a G protein subunit. Based on mtDNA differentiation, four north Pacific abalone species diverged within the past 2 million years (Myr), and remaining north Pacific species diverged over a period of 4-20 Myr. Between-species nonsynonymous differences in lysin and 18-kDa exons exceed nucleotide differences in introns by 3.5- to 24-fold. Remarkably, in some comparisons nonsynonymous substitutions in lysin and 18-kDa genes exceed synonymous substitutions in mtCOI. Lysin and 18-kDa intron/exon segments were sequenced from multiple red abalone individuals collected over a 1,200-km range. Only two nucleotide changes and two sites of slippage variation were detected in a total of >29,000 nucleotides surveyed. However, polymorphism in mtCOI and a G protein intron was found in this species. This finding suggests that positive selection swept one lysin allele and one 18-kDa allele to fixation. Similarities between mtCOI and lysin gene trees indicate that rapid adaptive evolution of lysin has occurred consistently through the history of the group. Comparisons with mtCOI molecular clock calibrations suggest that nonsynonymous substitutions accumulate 2-50 times faster in lysin and 18-kDa genes than in rapidly evolving mammalian genes.

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