Evolution of caprine and ovine β-defensin genes
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Defensins comprise an important family of anti-microbial peptides. Among vertebrates, numerous defensin genes have been detected, but their evolutionary background is still discussed. We investigated the molecular evolution and variability of β-defensins of Caprini via sequence analyses of defensin introns. Screening of several domestic and wild species of Caprini revealed a total of 13 discrete β-defensin coding sequences, with three of them described before this study. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that the array of newly described defensin genes is of monophyletic origin and has arisen in numerous independent duplication events after separation of the ancestral defensins. As a result of that scenario, recent defensin genes are distributed in a species-specific manner. Values of synonymous and non-synonymous substitutions demonstrated that both modes of evolutionary pressure, positive as well as negative selection, have acted. In addition, conservation of some β-defensin exons is demonstrated. Discrimination of certain β-defensin genes was possible only due to intron-specific differences. Therefore, sequence analyses restricted to the exons would result in underestimation of the number of β-defensin genes. Our study shows that for reconstruction of the phylogenetic history data of defensin introns are more appropriated. Comparisons among the amino acid sequences show moderate substitutions without changing the net charge of the mature peptides.
KeywordsImmune defence Innate immunity Molecular evolution Capra Ovis
We thank A.K. Hett and C. Pitra for helpful comments and discussions. Furthermore, the authors recognise the following veterinarians and biologists: M. Stöck, A. Pauly, G. Straub and G. Wibbelt, for providing samples and information on the health status of feral sheep.
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