BACKGROUND: Cernunnos-XLF is a nonhomologous end-joining factor that is mutated in patients with a rare immunodeficiency with microcephaly. Several other microcephaly-associated genes such as ASPM and microcephalin experienced recent adaptive evolution apparently linked to brain size expansion in humans. In this study we investigated whether Cernunnos-XLF experienced similar positive selection during human evolution.<br /><br />RESULTS: We obtained or reconstructed full-length coding sequences of chimpanzee, rhesus macaque, canine, and bovine Cernunnos-XLF orthologs from sequence databases and sequence trace archives. Comparison of coding sequences revealed an excess of nonsynonymous substitutions consistent with positive selection on Cernunnos-XLF in the human lineage. The hotspots of adaptive evolution are concentrated around a specific structural domain, whose analogue in the structurally similar XRCC4 protein is involved in binding of another nonhomologous end-joining factor, DNA ligase IV.<br /><br />CONCLUSION: Cernunnos-XLF is a microcephaly-associated locus newly identified to be under adaptive evolution in humans, and possibly played a role in human brain expansion. We speculate that Cernunnos-XLF may have contributed to the increased number of brain cells in humans by efficient double strand break repair, which helps to prevent frequent apoptosis of neuronal progenitors and aids mitotic cell cycle progression.<br /><br />REVIEWERS: This article was reviewed by Chris Ponting and Richard Emes (nominated by Chris Ponting), Kateryna Makova, Gáspár Jékely and Eugene V. Koonin.
Pavlicek, A., & Jurka, J. (2006, June 2). Positive selection on the nonhomologous end-joining factor Cernunnos-XLF in the human lineage. Biology Direct. https://doi.org/10.1186/1745-6150-1-15