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Genetics. 2000 Dec;156(4):1949-58.

Sequence variation at two eosinophil-associated ribonuclease loci in humans.

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Laboratory of Host Defenses, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Host defense against invading pathogens is of great importance to the survival of higher organisms. We have been studying the evolution of mammalian eosinophil-associated ribonucleases (EARs), which are members of the ribonuclease A superfamily with known antipathogen activities. Earlier studies showed that positive selection promoted rapid diversification of paralogous EAR genes in both primates and rodents. Intraspecifically, however, it is unknown whether these genes also have divergent alleles. The recent discovery that the gene repertoire of the EAR family is much larger in rodents than in primates has led us to consider the possibility that primates maintain a large number of polymorphic alleles to compensate for a smaller gene repertoire. Here we present sequences of 2417 nucleotides at the two EAR loci, the eosinophil-derived neurotoxin (EDN, RNase 2) and eosinophil cationic protein (ECP, RNase 3), from >50 human individuals. Our data demonstrate that the nucleotide diversities (0.06-0.11%) at these loci are typical for human nuclear genes, thus permitting us to reject this polymorphism hypothesis. No significant departure from neutrality is noted and no signs of overdominant selection are observed. Similar patterns were observed in a preliminary study of chimpanzees. In summary, our results suggest that the antipathogen functions of the primate EARs are conserved after they are established and that these proteins are not currently undergoing rapid diversification in response to challenge from invading microorganisms.

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