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Protein Cell. 2013 May;4(5):383-92. doi: 10.1007/s13238-013-3021-1. Epub 2013 Apr 30.

Distinct evolution process among type I interferon in mammals.

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  • 1CAS Key Laboratory of Pathogenic Microbiology and Immunology, Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China.


Interferon (IFN) is thought to play an important role in the vertebrate immune system, but systemic knowledge of IFN evolution has yet to be elucidated. To evaluate the phylogenic distribution and evolutionary history of type I IFNs, 13genomes were searched using BLASTn program, and a phylogenetic tree of vertebrate type I IFNs was constructed. In the present study, an IFNδ-like gene in the human genome was identified, refuting the concept that humans have no IFNδ genes, and other mammalian IFN genes were also identified. In the phylogenetic tree, the mammalian IFNβ, IFNɛ, and IFNκ formed a clade separate from the other mammalian type I IFNs, while piscine and avian IFNs formed distinct clades. Based on this phylogenetic analysis and the various characteristics of type I IFNs, the evolutionary history of type I IFNs was further evaluated. Our data indicate that an ancestral IFNα-like gene forms a core from which new IFNs divided during vertebrate evolution. In addition, the data suggest how the other type I IFNs evolved from IFNα and shaped the complex type I IFN system. The promoters of type I IFNs were conserved among different mammals, as well as their genic regions. However, the intergenic regions of type I IFN clusters were not conserved among different mammals, demonstrating a high selection pressure upon type I IFNs during their evolution.

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