Albuminoid genes: Evolving at the interface of dispensability and selection

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Abstract

? The Author(s) 2014.The albuminoid gene family comprises vitamin D-binding protein (GC), alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), afamin (AFM), and albumin (ALB). Albumin is the most abundant human serum protein, and, as the other family members, acts as a transporter of endogenous and exogenous substances including thyroxine, fatty acids, and drugs. Instead, the major cargo of GC is 25-hydroxyvitamin D. We performed an evolutionarystudy of albuminoid genes and we show that ALB evolved adaptively in mammals. Most positively selected sites are located within albumin-binding sites for fatty acids and thyroxine, as well as at the contact surface with neonatal Fc receptor. Positive selection was also detected for residues forming the prostaglandin-binding pocket. Adaptation to hibernation/torpor might explain the signatures of episodic positive selection we detected for few mammalian lineages. Application of a population genetics-phylogenetics approach showed that purifying selection represented a major force acting on albuminoid genes in both humans and chimpanzees, with the strongest constraint observed for human GC. Population genetic analysis revealed that GC was also the target of locally exerted selective pressure, which drove the frequency increase of different haplotypes in distinct human populations. A search for known variants that modulate GC and 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations revealed linkage disequilibrium with positively selected variants, although European and Asian major GC haplotypes carry alleles with reported opposite effect on GC concentration. Data herein indicate that albumin, an extremely abundant housekeeping protein, was the target of pervasive and episodic selection in mammals, whereas GC represented a selection target during the recent evolution of human populations.

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Mozzi, A., Forni, D., Cagliani, R., Pozzoli, U., Vertemara, J., Bresolin, N., & Sironi, M. (2014). Albuminoid genes: Evolving at the interface of dispensability and selection. Genome Biology and Evolution, 6(11), 2983–2997. https://doi.org/10.1093/gbe/evu235

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