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Genomics. 2009 Jan;93(1):33-41. doi: 10.1016/j.ygeno.2008.09.005. Epub 2008 Nov 5.

Adaptive history of single copy genes highly expressed in the term human placenta.

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Perinatology Research Branch, NICHD/NIH/DHHS Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48201, USA.


The chorioallantoic placenta is a shared derived feature of "placental" mammals essential for the success of eutherian reproduction. Identifying the genes involved in the emergence of the placenta may provide clues for understanding the biology of this organ. Here we identify among 4960 single copy genes in mammals, 222 that show high expression levels in human placentas at term. Further, we present evidence that 94 of these 222 genes evolved adaptively during human evolutionary history since the time of the last common ancestor of eutherian mammals. Remarkably, the majority of positive selection occurred on the eutherian stem lineage suggesting that ancient adaptations have been retained in the human placenta. Of these positively selected genes, 28 have been shown to play a role in human pregnancy and placental biology, and at least 26 have important pregnancy-related phenotypes in mice. Adaptations in genes highly expressed in human placenta are attractive candidates for functional and clinical studies.

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