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Mol Biol Evol. 1999 Jul;16(7):975-86.

The divergence-homogenization duality in the evolution of the b1 mating type gene of Coprinus cinereus.

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  • 1Department of Plant Biology, University of Minnesota, St. Paul 55108, USA.


The A mating type locus of the fungus Coprinus cinereus is a complex, multigenic locus which regulates compatibility and subsequent sexual development. Genes within the A locus such as the b1 gene studied here exhibit extreme sequence variation. In this work, we asked how b1 alleles have evolved high levels of variation and, at the same time, conserved function. We compared sequence variation in 17 alleles characterized as belonging to seven different compatibility classes. Comparison of sequence variation between representatives of these seven classes shows that different regions of the b1 gene have been subject to varying levels of substitution, recombination, and structural/functional constraints. The N-terminal region of the encoded protein, which has been previously demonstrated to govern self/nonself recognition, exhibited hypervariability with levels of amino acid identity as low as 41%. We used a novel analysis of neutral mutations accumulating in this gene to rule out the possibility that the N-terminal region is hypermutable. In contrast, the C-terminal region displayed heterogeneous levels of variation, with functional motifs being better conserved. In fact, there is a duality in the b1 gene between variability and conservation; recombination events have homogenized the C-terminal region, while recombination events are undetectable in the N-terminal region. The ability to regulate sexual development is maintained in all of the mating compatibility alleles studied, and these data suggest that some functional motifs may tolerate high levels of substitution.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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