Conserved or Lost: Molecular Evolution of the Key Gene GULO in Vertebrate Vitamin C Biosynthesis
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l-gulono-gamma-lactone oxidase (GULO) catalyzes the final step in vertebrate vitamin C biosynthesis. Vitamin C-incapable vertebrates lack the GULO gene. Gene structure and phylogenetic analyses showed that vertebrate GULO genes are 64–95% identical at the amino acid level and consist of 11 conserved exons. GULO pseudogenes have multiple indel mutations and premature stop codons in higher primates, guinea pigs, and some bats. No GULO-like sequences were identified in teleost fishes. During animal GULO evolution, exon F was subdivided into F1 and F2. Additional GULO retropseudogenes were identified in dogs, cats, and giant pandas. GULO-flanking genome regions acquired frequent segment translocations and inversions during vertebrate evolution. Purifying selection was detected across vertebrate GULO genes (d N/d S = 0.069), except for some positively selected sites identified in sharks and frogs. These positive sites demonstrated little functional significance when mapped onto the three-dimensional GULO protein structure. Vertebrate GULO genes are conserved except for those that are lost.
KeywordsVertebrates GULO loss Synteny analysis Selective pressure
This project was supported by the Natural Science Foundation of Fujian Province, China (No. 2008F3111) and the Initial Research Fund (No. 2006L20775) from Zhangzhou Normal University to Dr. Hongwen Yang.
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