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Mol Biol Evol. 2012 Jun;29(6):1507-11. doi: 10.1093/molbev/mss013. Epub 2012 Jan 19.

Multiple adaptive losses of alanine-glyoxylate aminotransferase mitochondrial targeting in fruit-eating bats.


The enzyme alanine-glyoxylate aminotransferase 1 (AGT) functions to detoxify glyoxylate before it is converted into harmful oxalate. In mammals, mitochondrial targeting of AGT in carnivorous species versus peroxisomal targeting in herbivores is controlled by two signal peptides that correspond to these respective organelles. Differential expression of the mitochondrial targeting sequence (MTS) is considered an adaptation to diet-specific subcellular localization of glyoxylate precursors. Bats are an excellent group in which to study adaptive changes in dietary enzymes; they show unparalleled mammalian dietary diversification as well as independent origins of carnivory, frugivory, and nectarivory. We studied the AGT gene in bats and other mammals with diverse diets and found that the MTS has been lost in unrelated lineages of frugivorous bats. Conversely, species exhibiting piscivory, carnivory, insectivory, and sanguinivory possessed intact MTSs. Detected positive selection in the AGT of ancestral fruit bats further supports adaptations related to evolutionary changes in diet.

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