Journal Article

Evolution of Olfactory Receptor Genes in Primates Dominated by Birth-and-Death Process

Dong Dong, Guimei He, Shuyi Zhang and Zhaolei Zhang

in Genome Biology and Evolution

Published on behalf of Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution

Volume 1, issue , pages 258-264
Published in print January 2009 |
Published online August 2009 | e-ISSN: 1759-6653 | DOI:

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Olfactory receptor (OR) is a large family of G protein–coupled receptors that can detect odorant in order to generate the sense of smell. They constitute one of the largest multiple gene families in animals including primates. To better understand the variation in odor perception and evolution of OR genes among primates, we computationally identified OR gene repertoires in orangutans, marmosets, and mouse lemurs and investigated the birth-and-death process of OR genes in the primate lineage. The results showed that 1) all the primate species studied have no more than 400 intact OR genes, fewer than rodents and canine; 2) Despite the similar number of OR genes in the genome, the makeup of the OR gene repertoires between different primate species is quite different as they had undergone dramatic birth-and-death evolution with extensive gene losses in the lineages leading to current species; 3) Apes and Old World monkey (OWM) have similar fraction of pseudogenes, whereas New World monkey (NWM) have fewer pseudogenes. To measure the selective pressure that had affected the OR gene repertoires in primates, we compared the ratio of nonsynonymous with synonymous substitution rates by using 70 one-to-one orthologous quintets among five primate species. We found that OR genes showed relaxed selective constraints in apes (humans, chimpanzees, and orangutans) than in OWMs (macaques) and NWMs (marmosets). We concluded that OR gene repertoires in primates have evolved in such a way to adapt to their respective living environments. Differential selective constraints might play important role in the primate OR gene evolution in each primate species.

Keywords: olfactory receptor; birth-and-death evolution; accelerated evolution; primates

Journal Article.  5123 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Bioinformatics and Computational Biology ; Evolutionary Biology ; Genetics and Genomics

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