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J Biol Chem. 1990 Jan 15;265(2):781-93.

Molecular history of gene conversions in the primate fetal gamma-globin genes. Nucleotide sequences from the common gibbon, Hylobates lar.

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Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan 48201.


Comparative and phylogenetic analyses of homologous sequences from closely related species reveal genetic events which have happened in the past and thus provide considerable insight into molecular genetic processes. One such process which has been especially important in the evolution of multigene families is gene conversion. The fetal gamma 1 and gamma 2-globin genes of catarrhine primates (humans, apes, and Old World monkeys) underwent numerous gene conversion events after they arose from a gene duplication event 25-35 million years ago. By including the gamma 1- and gamma 2-globin gene sequences from the common gibbon, Hylobates lar, the present work expands the gamma-globin data set to represent all major groups of hominoid primates. A computer-assisted algorithm is introduced which reveals converted DNA segments and provides results very similar to those obtained by site-by-site evolutionary reconstruction. Both methods provide strong evidence for at least 14 different converted stretches in catarrhine primates as well as five conversions in ancestral lineages. Features of gene conversions generalized from this molecular history are 1) conversions are restricted to regions maintaining high degrees of sequence similarity, 2) one gene may dominate in converting another gene, 3) sequences involved in conversions may accumulate changes more rapidly than expected, and 4) certain elements, such as polypurine/polypyrimidine [Y)n) and (TG)n elements, appear to be hotspots for initiating or terminating conversion events.

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