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Mol Biol Evol. 2000 Mar;17(3):387-400.

Molecular adaptation of alanine:glyoxylate aminotransferase targeting in primates.

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MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology, University College London, England, United Kingdom.


The intermediary metabolic enzyme alanine:glyoxylate aminotransferase (AGT) is targeted to different organelles (mitochondria and/or peroxisomes) in different species. Possibly under the influence of dietary selection pressure, the subcellular distribution of AGT has changed on at least eight occasions during the evolution of mammals. AGT targeting is dependent on the variable use of two alternative transcription and translation initiation sites which determine whether or not the region encoding the N-terminal mitochondrial targeting sequence is contained within the open reading frame. In the present study, we sequenced the 5' region of the AGT gene, including both ancestral translation start sites, for 11 anthropoid primates and compared the results with data already available for two others. We show that while the more 3' of the two translation start sites is maintained in all species, the more 5' site has been lost in six species (five of seven catarrhines and one of six platyrrhines). In addition, the remaining two catarrhines, which have maintained the 5' translation start site, are predicted to have lost mitochondrial targeting by a different mechanism, possibly loss of the more 5' transcription start site. Analysis of the relative frequencies of nonsynonymous and synonymous mutations in the region encoding the extant or ancestral mitochondrial targeting sequences led us to suggest that there has been recent strong positive selection pressure to lose, or decrease the efficiency of, mitochondrial AGT targeting in several anthropoid lineages, and that the loss of mitochondrial targeting in this group of mammals is likely to have occurred on at least four, and possibly five, separate occasions.

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