Molecular Phylogeny and Evolution of the Neurotrophins from Monotremes and Marsupials
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We have investigated the phylogenetic relationships of monotremes and marsupials using nucleotide sequence data from the neurotrophins; nerve growth factor (NGF), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and neurotrophin-3 (NT-3). The study included species representing monotremes, Australasian marsupials and placentals, as well as species representing birds, reptiles, and fish. PCR was used to amplify fragments encoding parts of the neurotrophin genes from echidna, platypus, and eight marsupials from four different orders. Phylogenetic trees were generated using parsimony analysis, and support for the different tree structures was evaluated by bootstrapping. The analysis was performed with NGF, BDNF, or NT-3 sequence data used individually as well as with the three neurotrophins in a combined matrix, thereby simultaneously considering phylogenetic information from three separate genes. The results showed that the monotreme neurotrophin sequences associate to either therian or bird neurotrophin sequences and suggests that the monotremes are not necessarily related closer to therians than to birds. Furthermore, the results confirmed the present classification of four Australasian marsupial orders based on morphological characters, and suggested a phylogenetic relationship where Dasyuromorphia is related closest to Peramelemorphia followed by Notoryctemorphia and Diprotodontia. These studies show that sequence data from neurotrophins are well suited for phylogenetic analysis of mammals and that neurotrophins can resolve basal relationships in the evolutionary tree.