BACKGROUND: The X-linked SRPX2 gene encodes a Sushi Repeat-containing Protein of unknown function and is mutated in two disorders of the Rolandic/Sylvian speech areas. Since it is linked to defects in the functioning and the development of brain areas for speech production, SRPX2 may thus have participated in the adaptive organization of such brain regions. To address this issue, we have examined the recent molecular evolution of the SRPX2 gene. RESULTS: The complete coding region was sequenced in 24 human X chromosomes from worldwide populations and in six representative nonhuman primate species. One single, fixed amino acid change (R75K) has been specifically incorporated in human SRPX2 since the human-chimpanzee split. The R75K substitution occurred in the first sushi domain of SRPX2, only three amino acid residues away from a previously reported disease-causing mutation (Y72S). Three-dimensional structural modeling of the first sushi domain revealed that Y72 and K75 are both situated in the hypervariable loop that is usually implicated in protein-protein interactions. The side-chain of residue 75 is exposed, and is located within an unusual and SRPX-specific protruding extension to the hypervariable loop. The analysis of non-synonymous/synonymous substitution rate (Ka/Ks) ratio in primates was performed in order to test for positive selection during recent evolution. Using the branch models, the Ka/Ks ratio for the human branch was significantly different (p = 0.027) from that of the other branches. In contrast, the branch-site tests did not reach significance. Genetic analysis was also performed by sequencing 9,908 kilobases (kb) of intronic SRPX2 sequences. Despite low nucleotide diversity, neither the HKA (Hudson-Kreitman-Aguadé) test nor the Tajima's D test reached significance. CONCLUSION: The R75K human-specific variation occurred in an important functional loop of the first sushi domain of SRPX2, indicating that this evolutionary mutation may have functional importance; however, positive selection for R75K could not be demonstrated. Nevertheless, our data contribute to the first understanding of molecular evolution of the human SPRX2 gene. Further experiments are now required in order to evaluate the possible consequences of R75K on SRPX2 interactions and functioning.
Royer, B., Soares, D. C., Barlow, P. N., Bontrop, R. E., Roll, P., Robaglia-Schlupp, A., … Szepetowski, P. (2007). Molecular evolution of the human SRPX2 gene that causes brain disorders of the Rolandic and Sylvian speech areas. BMC Genetics, 8, 72. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2156-8-72