, Volume 133, Issue 3, pp 307–319 | Cite as

A comparative genomic analysis of the small heat shock proteins in Caenorhabditis elegans and briggsae

  • Brian D. Aevermann
  • Elizabeth R. Waters


The small heat shock proteins (sHSPs) are a ubiquitous family of molecular chaperones. We have identified 18 sHSPs in the Caenorhabditis elegans genome and 20 sHSPs in the Caenorhabditis briggsae genome. Analysis of phylogenetic relationships and evolutionary dynamics of the sHSPs in these two genomes reveals a very complex pattern of evolution. The sHSPs in C. elegans and C. briggsae do not display clear orthologous relationships with other invertebrate sHSPs. But many sHSPs in C. elegans have orthologs in C. briggsae. One group of sHSPs, the HSP16s, has a very unusual evolutionary history. Although there are a number of HSP16s in both the C. elegans and C. briggsae genomes, none of the HSP16s display orthologous relationships across these two species. The HSP16s have an unusual gene pair structure and a complex evolutionary history shaped by gene duplication, gene conversion, and purifying selection. We found no evidence of recent positive selection acting on any of the sHSPs in C. elegans or in C. briggsae. There is also no evidence of functional divergence within the pairs of orthologous C. elegans and C. briggsae sHSPs. However, the evolutionary patterns do suggest that functional divergence has occurred between the sHSPs in C. elegans and C. briggsae and the sHSPs in more distantly related invertebrates.


Caenorhabditis Heat shock proteins hsp20 Gene family evolution Gene duplication 



Heat shock protein


Small heat shock proteins


Base pair




Heat shock response elements


Ethanol stress response element



This manuscript is based on B. D. Aevermann’s Master of Sciences thesis at San Diego State University. Aevermann’s M.S. thesis committee members Drs. R. Zeller and T. Larsen provided useful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. The Waters lab, and in particular Jim Starrett, provided useful comments and assistance in evaluating the results. We also wish to thank one anonymous reviewer and Dr. R. Krebs for helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Oregon Health Sciences University, MMI Core FacilityPortlandUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologySan Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA

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