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Curr Biol. January 26, 2010; 20 (2): 125-30.

Identical skin toxins by convergent molecular adaptation in frogs.

Roelants K , Fry BG , Norman JA , Clynen E , Schoofs L , Bossuyt F .

The Tree of Life is rife with adaptive convergences at all scales and biological levels of complexity. However, natural selection is not likely to result in the independent evolution of identical gene products. Here we report such a striking example of evolutionary convergence in the toxic skin secretions of two distantly related frog lineages. Caeruleins are important decapeptides in pharmacological and clinical research [1] and are commonly believed to represent a single evolutionary class of peptides [2-4]. Instead, our phylogenetic analyses combining transcriptome and genome data reveal that independently evolved precursor genes encode identical caeruleins in Xenopus and Litoria frogs. The former arose by duplication from the cholecystokinin (cck) gene, whereas the latter was derived from the gastrin gene. These hormone genes that are involved in many physiological processes diverged early in vertebrate evolution, after a segmental duplication during the Cambrian period. Besides implicating convergent mutations of the peptide-encoding sequence, recurrent caerulein origins entail parallel shifts of expression from the gut-brain axis to skin secretory glands. These results highlight extreme structural convergence in anciently diverged genes as an evolutionary mechanism through which recurrent adaptation is attained across large phylogenetic distances.

PubMed ID: 20045326
Article link: Curr Biol.

Genes referenced: cck clock gast xt6l

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Brodie, 2010, Pubmed

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