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Genes Genet Syst. 2002 Jun;77(3):197-207.

Changes in body temperature pattern in vertebrates do not influence the codon usages of alpha-globin genes.

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Department of Biological and Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Gunma University, Tenjin 1-5-1, Kiryu, Gunma 376-8515, Japan.


Codon usages are known to vary among vertebrates chiefly due to variations in isochore structure. Under the assumption that marked differences exist in isochore structure between warm-blooded and cold-blooded animals, the variations among vertebrates were previously attributed to an adaptation to homeothermy. However, based on data from a turtle species and a crocodile (Archosauromorpha), it was recently proposed that the common ancestors of mammals, birds and extent reptiles already had the "warm-blooded" isochore structure. We determined the nucleotide sequences of alpha-globin genes from two species of heterotherms, cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) and bat (Pipistrellus abramus), and three species of snakes (Lepidosauromorpha), Naja kaouthia from a tropical terrestrial habitat, Elaphe climacophora from a temperate terrestrial habitat, and Hydrophis melanocephalus from a tropical marine habitat. Our purposes were to assess the influence of differential body temperature patterns on codon usage and GC content at the third position of a codon (GC3), and to test the hypothesis concerning the phylogenetic position at which GC contents had increased in vertebrates. The results of principal component analysis (PCA) using the present data and data for other taxa from GenBank indicate that the primary difference in codon usage in globin genes among amniotes and other vertebrates lies in GC3. The codon usages (and GC3) in alpha-globin genes from two heterotherms and three snakes are similar to those in alpha-globin genes from warm-blooded vertebrates. These results refute the influence of body temperature pattern upon codon usages (and GC3) in alpha-globin genes, and support the hypothesis that the increase in GC content in the genome occurred in the common ancestor of amniotes.

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