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J Mol Evol. 2009 Jul;69(1):22-31. doi: 10.1007/s00239-009-9239-0. Epub 2009 Jun 16.

Widespread gene conversion of alpha-2-fucosyltransferase genes in mammals.

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CIBIO-UP, Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos, Vairao, Portugal.


The alpha-2-fucosyltransferases (alpha2FTs) are enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of alpha2fucosylated glycan structures. In mammalian genomes, there are three alpha2FT genes located in tandem-FUT1, FUT2, and Sec1-each contained within a single exon. It has been suggested that these genes originated from two successive duplications, with FUT1 being generated first and FUT2 and Sec1 second. Despite gene conversion being considered the main mechanism of concerted evolution in gene families, previous studies of primates alpha2FTs failed to detect it, although the occurrence of gene conversion between FUT2 and Sec1 was recently reported in a human allele. The primary aim of our work was to initiate a broader study on the molecular evolution of mammalian alpha2FTs. Sequence comparison leads us to confirm that the three genes appeared by two rounds of duplication. In addition, we were able to detect multiple gene-conversion events at the base of primates and within several nonprimate species involving FUT2 and Sec1. Gene conversion involving FUT1 and either FUT2 or Sec1 was also detected in rabbit. The extent of gene conversion between the alpha2FTs genes appears to be species-specific, possibly related to functional differentiation of these genes. With the exception of rabbits, gene conversion was not observed in the region coding the C-terminal part of the catalytic domain. In this region, the number of amino acids that are identical between FUT1 and FUT2, but different in Sec1, is higher than in other parts of the protein. The biologic meaning of this observation may be related to functional constraints.

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