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Mamm Genome. 2006 Dec;17(12):1205-13. Epub 2006 Dec 1.

Investigation of the role of the agouti signaling protein gene (ASIP) in coat color evolution in primates.

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Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK.


We investigated variation in the gene encoding the agouti signaling protein (ASIP) in relation to coat color evolution in primates. We found little evidence that mutations in the coding region of ASIP have been involved in color changes among closely related primate species. Among many closely related species with differing coat color, the coding region of ASIP was identical. In two cases (Sulawesi macaque and black lion tamarin) where species with almost completely black coat color had derived point mutations in exon 4 of the ASIP coding sequence, the same mutations did not alter coloration in other mammals and so probably do not affect ASIP function. Evolutionary reconstructions of two key phenotypes that are typically related to ASIP function--transverse phaeomelanin bands on hairs and pale ventral coloration--showed that these usually evolved concurrently, suggesting that loci acting downstream of ASIP may be involved. Analysis of dN/dS ratios revealed a likely change in functional constraint on ASIP following loss of agouti-banded hairs + pale ventral coloration, particularly in catarrhine primates (humans, apes, and Old World monkeys). Together with previous results on a lack of association of coat color with MC1R variation, these results suggest that other loci probably have an important role in primate coat color evolution.

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