Woelk, C.H., Frost, S.D.W., Richman, D.D., Higley, P.E. and Kosakovsky Pond, S.L.
Evolution of the interferon alpha gene family in eutherian mammals.
Gene, 397, (1-2), . (doi:10.1016/j.gene.2007.03.018).
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Interferon alpha (IFNA) genes code for proteins with important signaling roles during the innate immune response. Phylogenetically, IFNA family members in eutherians (placental mammals) cluster together in a species-specific manner except for closely related species (i.e. Homo sapiens and Pan troglodytes) where gene-specific clustering is evident. Previous research has been unable to clarify whether gene conversion or recent gene duplication accounts for gene-specific clustering, partly because the similarity of members of the IFNA family within species has made it historically difficult to identify the exact composition of IFNA gene families. IFNA gene families were fully characterized in recently available genomes from Canis familiaris, Macaca mulatta, P. troglodytes and Rattus norvegicus, and combined with previously characterized IFNA gene families from H. sapiens and Mus musculus, for the analysis of both whole and partial gene conversion events using a variety of statistical methods. Gene conversion was inferred in every eutherian species analyzed and comparison of the IFNA gene family locus between primate species revealed independent gene duplication in M. mulatta. Thus, both gene conversion and gene duplication have shaped the evolution of the IFNA gene family in eutherian species. Scenarios may be envisaged whereby the increased production of a specific IFN-? protein would be beneficial against a particular pathogenic infection. Gene conversion, similar to duplication, provides a mechanism by which the protein product of a specific IFNA gene can be increased.
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