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Bioessays. 2004 Jul;26(7):786-95.

A gene for speed? The evolution and function of alpha-actinin-3.

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The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Westmead, Sydney, Australia.


The alpha-actinins are an ancient family of actin-binding proteins that play structural and regulatory roles in cytoskeletal organisation and muscle contraction. alpha-actinin-3 is the most-highly specialised of the four mammalian alpha-actinins, with its expression restricted largely to fast glycolytic fibres in skeletal muscle. Intriguingly, a significant proportion ( approximately 18%) of the human population is totally deficient in alpha-actinin-3 due to homozygosity for a premature stop codon polymorphism (R577X) in the ACTN3 gene. Recent work in our laboratory has revealed a strong association between R577X genotype and performance in a variety of athletic endeavours. We are currently exploring the function and evolutionary history of the ACTN3 gene and other alpha-actinin family members. The alpha-actinin family provides a fascinating case study in molecular evolution, illustrating phenomena such as functional redundancy in duplicate genes, the evolution of protein function, and the action of natural selection during recent human evolution.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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