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Inactivation dates of the human and guinea pig vitamin C genes


The capacity to biosynthesize ascorbic acid has been lost in a number of species including primates, guinea pigs, teleost fishes, bats, and birds. This inability results from mutations in the GLO gene coding for L-gulono-γ-lactone oxidase, the enzyme responsible for catalyzing the last step in the vitamin C biosynthetic pathway. We analyzed available primate and rodent GLO gene sequences to determine their evolutionary history. We used a method based on sequence comparisons of lineages with and without functional GLO genes to calculate inactivation dates of 61 and 14 MYA for the primate and guinea pig genes, respectively. These estimates are consistent with previous phylogeny-based estimates. An analysis of transposable element distribution in the primate and rodent GLO sequences did not reveal conclusive evidence that illegitimate recombination between repeats has contributed to the loss of exons in the primate and guinea pig genes.

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We thank the two anonymous referees for their useful and constructive comments on a previous version of this manuscript. This work was supported by a Discovery Grant from the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada to G. D.

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Correspondence to Guy Drouin.

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Lachapelle, M.Y., Drouin, G. Inactivation dates of the human and guinea pig vitamin C genes. Genetica 139, 199–207 (2011).

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  • Vitamin C
  • L-gulono-γ-lactone oxidase
  • GLO gene
  • Unitary pseudogene
  • Human
  • Guinea pig