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Parallel adaptive origins of digestive RNases in Asian and African leaf monkeys

Nature Genetics volume 38, pages 819823 (2006) | Download Citation

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Abstract

Similar morphological or physiological changes occurring in multiple evolutionary lineages are not uncommon. Such parallel changes are believed to be adaptive, because a complex character is unlikely to originate more than once by chance. However, the occurrence of adaptive parallel amino acid substitutions is debated1,2,3. Here I propose four requirements for establishing adaptive parallel evolution at the protein sequence level and use these criteria to demonstrate such a case. I report that the gene encoding pancreatic ribonuclease was duplicated independently in Asian and African leaf-eating monkeys. Statistical analyses of DNA sequences, functional assays of reconstructed ancestral proteins and site-directed mutagenesis show that the new genes acquired enhanced digestive efficiencies through parallel amino acid replacements driven by darwinian selection. They also lost a non-digestive function independently, under a relaxed selective constraint. These results demonstrate that despite the overall stochasticity, even molecular evolution has a certain degree of repeatability and predictability under the pressures of natural selection.

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Acknowledgements

I thank M. Bakewell, S. Cho, W. Grus, A. Rooney and D. Webb for comments. This work was supported by the US National Institutes of Health.

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Affiliations

  1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, 1075 Natural Science Building, 830 North University Avenue, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.

    • Jianzhi Zhang

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The author declares no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to Jianzhi Zhang.

Supplementary information

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    Supplementary Fig. 1

    The structures of the human and guereza pancreatic RNase genes.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/ng1812

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