Dating the primigenial C4-CYP21 duplication in primates

Y. Horiuchi, H. Kawaguchi, F. Figueroa, C. O'hUigin, J. Klein

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14 Scopus citations


C4 and CYP21 are two adjacent, but functionally unrelated genes residing in the middle of the mammalian major histocompatibility complex (Mhc). The C4 gene codes for the fourth component of the complement cascade, whereas the CYP21 gene specifies an enzyme (cytochrome P450c21) of the glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid pathways. The genes occur frequently in multiple copies on a single chromosome arranged in the order C4...CYP21...C4...CYP21. The unit of duplication (a module) is the C4-CYP21 gene pair. We sequenced the flanking regions of the C4-CYP21 modules and the intermodular regions of the chimpanzee, gorilla, and orangutan, as well as the intermodular region of an Old World monkey, the pigtail macaque. By aligning the sequences, we could identify the duplication breakpoints in these species. The breakpoint turned out to be at exactly the same position as that found previously in humans. The sequences flanking paralogous genes in the same species were found to be more similar to one another than sequences flanking orthologous genes in different species. We interpret these results as indicating that the original (primigenial) duplication occurred before the separation of apes from Old World monkeys more than 23 million years ago. The nature of the sequence at the breakpoint suggests that the duplication occurred by nonhomologous recombination. Since then, the C4-CYP21 haplotypes have been expanding and contracting by homologous crossing over which has homogenized the sequences in each species. We speculate that the reason for the concerted evolution of the primate C4-CYP21 region may be a requirement for the coevolution of certain components of the complement pathway, including the C4 component. We contrast the evolution of the C4-CYP21 region with that of other Mhc regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)331-339
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1993

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


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