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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1995 Oct 24;92(22):10217-21.

Myc and Max: molecular evolution of a family of proto-oncogene products and their dimerization partner.

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Department of Genetics, North Carolina State University, Raleigh 27695-7614, USA.


The myc gene family encodes a group of transcription factors that regulate cell proliferation and differentiation. These genes are widely studied because of their importance as proto-oncogenes. Phylogenetic analyses are described here for 45 Myc protein sequences representing c-, N-, L-, S-, and B-myc genes. A gene duplication early in vertebrate evolution produced the c-myc lineage and another lineage that later gave rise to the N- and L-myc lineages by another gene duplication. Evolutionary divergence in the myc gene family corresponds closely to the known branching order of the major vertebrate groups. The patterns of sequence evolution are described for five separate highly conserved regions, and these analyses show that differential rates of sequence divergence (= mosaic evolution) have occurred among conserved motifs. Further, the closely related dimerization partner protein Max exhibits significantly less sequence variability than Myc. It is suggested that the reduced variability in max stems from natural selection acting to preserve dimerization capability with products of myc and related genes.

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