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J Mol Evol. 2015 Apr;80(3-4):193-208. doi: 10.1007/s00239-015-9670-3. Epub 2015 Mar 11.

Reconstruction of cyclooxygenase evolution in animals suggests variable, lineage-specific duplications, and homologs with low sequence identity.

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Department of Biological Sciences & Molette Biology Laboratory for Environmental and Climate Change Studies, Auburn University, Auburn, USA,


Cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymatically converts arachidonic acid into prostaglandin G/H in animals and has importance during pregnancy, digestion, and other physiological functions in mammals. COX genes have mainly been described from vertebrates, where gene duplications are common, but few studies have examined COX in invertebrates. Given the increasing ease in generating genomic data, as well as recent, although incomplete descriptions of potential COX sequences in Mollusca, Crustacea, and Insecta, assessing COX evolution across Metazoa is now possible. Here, we recover 40 putative COX orthologs by searching publicly available genomic resources as well as ~250 novel invertebrate transcriptomic datasets. Results suggest the common ancestor of Cnidaria and Bilateria possessed a COX homolog similar to those of vertebrates, although such homologs were not found in poriferan and ctenophore genomes. COX was found in most crustaceans and the majority of molluscs examined, but only specific taxa/lineages within Cnidaria and Annelida. For example, all octocorallians appear to have COX, while no COX homologs were found in hexacorallian datasets. Most species examined had a single homolog, although species-specific COX duplications were found in members of Annelida, Mollusca, and Cnidaria. Additionally, COX genes were not found in Hemichordata, Echinodermata, or Platyhelminthes, and the few previously described COX genes in Insecta lacked appreciable sequence homology (although structural analyses suggest these may still be functional COX enzymes). This analysis provides a benchmark for identifying COX homologs in future genomic and transcriptomic datasets, and identifies lineages for future studies of COX.

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