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Nat Genet. 1995 Jun;10(2):219-23.

Rapid evolution of a unique family of primate ribonuclease genes.

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Laboratory of Host Defenses, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


We have traced the rapid molecular evolution of eosinophil-derived neurotoxin (EDN) and eosinophil cationic protein (ECP), two host defense proteins that are members of the mammalian ribonuclease gene family. The EDN/ECP gene pair arose from a recent duplication event that occurred after the divergence of New World and Old World monkeys. Since duplication, the genes encoding EDN and ECP have accumulated non-silent mutations at rates exceeding those of all other functional coding sequences studied in primates, while retaining both the structural and catalytic components required for ribonuclease activity. These results suggest that both EDN and ECP may be responding to unusual evolutionary constraints, which has prompted a reexamination of their physiologic function.

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