Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Mol Biol Evol. 2009 Apr;26(4):937-49. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msp018. Epub 2009 Jan 29.

A history of recurrent positive selection at the toll-like receptor 5 in primates.

Author information

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tuscon, AZ. <>


Many genes involved in immunity evolve rapidly. It remains unclear, however, to what extent pattern-recognition receptors (PRRs) of the innate immune system in vertebrates are subject to recurrent positive selection imposed by pathogens, as suggested by studies in Drosophila, or whether they are evolutionarily constrained. Here, we show that Toll-like receptor 5 (TLR5), a member of the Toll-like receptor family of innate immunity genes that responds to bacterial flagellin, has undergone a history of adaptive evolution in primates. We have identified specific residues that have changed multiple times, sometimes in parallel in primates, and are thus likely candidates for selection. Most of these changes map to the extracellular leucine-rich repeats involved in pathogen recognition, and some are likely to have an effect on protein function due to the radical nature of the amino acid substitutions that are involved. These findings suggest that vertebrate PRRs might show similar patterns of evolution to Drosophila PRRs, in spite of the acquisition of the more complex and specific vertebrate adaptive immune system. At shorter timescales, however, we found no evidence of adaptive evolution in either humans or chimpanzees. In fact, we found that one mutation that abolishes TLR5 function is present at high frequencies in many human populations. Patterns of variation indicate that this mutation is not young, and its high frequency suggests some functional redundancy for this PRR in humans.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Silverchair Information Systems Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Support Center