Molecular evolution of the primate developmental genes MSX1 and PAX9

George H. Perry, Brian C. Verrelli, Anne C. Stone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


In primates, the craniofacial skeleton and the dentition are marked by high levels of interspecific variation. Despite this, there are few comparative species studies conducted at the molecular level to investigate this functional diversity. We have determined nucleotide sequences of MSX1 and PAX9, two developmental genes, in a sample of 27 diverse primate species in order to identify coding or regulatory variation that may be associated with phenotypic diversity. Our analyses have identified four highly conserved noncoding sequences, including one that is conserved across primates and with dogs but not with mice. Although we find that substitution rates vary significantly across MSX1 exons, comparisons of nonsynonymous and synonymous substitution rates (d N/d S) suggest that, as a whole, MSX1 and PAX9 amino acid sequences have been under functional constraint throughout primate evolution. Compared to all other primates in our sample, our analysis of exon 1 in MSX1 finds an unusual pattern of amino acid substitution for Tarsius syrichta, a member of a lineage (tarsiers) that has many unique features among primates. For example, tarsiers are the only extant primates without deciduous incisors, and MSX1 is expressed exclusively in the incisor regions during the earliest stages of dental development. Our overall results provide insight into the utility of comparative species analyses of highly conserved developmental genes and their roles in the evolution of complex phenotypes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)644-654
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular biology and evolution
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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