, Volume 37, Issue 4, pp 426-434

Evolution of protamine P1 genes in primates

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Protamine P1 genes have been sequenced by PCR amplification and direct DNA sequencing from 9 primates representing 5 major families, Cebidae (new world monkeys), Cercopithecidae (old world monkeys), Hylobatidae (gibbons), Pongidae (gorilla, orangutan, and chimpanzee), and Hominidae (human). In this recently diverged group of primates these genes are clearly orthologous but very variable, both at the DNA level and in their expressed amino acid sequences. The rate of variation amongst the protamine Pls indicates that they are amongst the most rapidly diverging polypeptides studied. However, some regions are conserved both in primates and generally in other placental mammals. These are the 13 N-terminal residues (including a region of alternating serine and arginine residues (the motif SRSR, res. 10–13) susceptible to Ser phosphorylation), a tract of six Arg residues (res. 24–29) in the center of the molecule, and a six-residue region (RCCRRR, res. 39–44), consisting of a pair of cysteines flanked by arginines. Detailed consideration of nearest neighbor matrices and trees based on maximum parsimony indicates that PI genes from humans, gorillas, and chimpanzees are very similar. The amino acid and nucleotide differences between humans and gorillas. are fewer than those between humans and chimpanzees. This finding is at variance with data from DNA-DNA hybridization and extensive globin and mitochondrial DNA sequences which place human and chimpanzee as closest relatives in the super family, Hominoidea. This may be related to the fact that protamine Pls are expressed in germ line rather than somatic cells. In contrast to the variability of the exon regions of the protamine P1 genes, the sequence of the single intron is highly conserved.