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J Mol Biol. 1984 Dec 25;180(4):785-801.

The primate psi beta 1 gene. An ancient beta-globin pseudogene.


The human beta-globin gene cluster contains five functional genes plus a single pseudogene termed psi beta 1. Hybridization and comparative sequence analysis show that this pseudogene is not the product of a recent gene duplication, but is ancient and has been maintained in all major primate groups ranging from prosimians to anthropoids, at the same position as in man, between gamma- and delta-globin genes. In the lemur, a prosimian, the central exons of the psi beta 1 and delta-globin genes have undergone an unequal exchange, which has resulted in a contraction of the beta-globin gene cluster and the formation of a Lepore-type psi beta 1-delta globin pseudogene. Comparisons of defects shared by prosimian, New World monkey and human psi beta 1 sequences suggest that the ancestral primate gene was probably a pseudogene with an abnormal initiation codon but few if any additional defects, and that most contemporary pseudogene defects were accumulated relatively recently by slow neutral drift. We suggest that psi beta 1 arose early in primate evolution by silencing of a pre-existing discrete functional gene, and show that psi beta 1-related sequences are also present in other mammalian orders. In view of the antiquity of psi beta 1-related sequences, we propose that this gene be renamed the eta-globin gene.

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