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Mol Biol Evol. 2007 Sep;24(9):1934-43. Epub 2007 Jun 14.

Lineage-specific expansion of the zinc finger associated domain ZAD.

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Max-Planck-Institut für biophysikalische Chemie, Abteilung Molekulare Entwicklungsbiologie, Am Fassberg 11, 37077 Göttingen, Germany.


The zinc finger associated domain (ZAD), present in almost 100 distinct proteins, characterizes the largest subgroup of C2H2 zinc finger proteins in Drosophila melanogaster and was initially found to be encoded by arthropod genomes only. Here, we report that the ZAD was also present in the last common ancestor of arthropods and vertebrates, and that vertebrate genomes contain a single conserved gene that codes for a ZAD-like peptide. Comparison of the ZAD proteomes of several arthropod species revealed an extensive and species-specific expansion of ZAD-coding genes in higher holometabolous insects, and shows that only few ZAD-coding genes with essential functions in Drosophila melanogaster are conserved. Furthermore, at least 50% of the ZAD-coding genes of Drosophila melanogaster are expressed in the female germline, suggesting a function in oocyte development and/or a requirement during early embryogenesis. Since the majority of the essential ZAD coding genes of Drosophila melanogaster were not conserved during arthropod or at least during insect evolution, we propose that the LSE of ZAD-coding genes shown here may provide the raw material for the evolution of new functions that allow organisms to pursue novel evolutionary paths.

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