Open Access Research article

Positive selection neighboring functionally essential sites and disease-implicated regions of mammalian reproductive proteins

Claire C Morgan, Noeleen B Loughran, Thomas A Walsh, Alan J Harrison and Mary J O'Connell*

Author Affiliations

Bioinformatics and Molecular Evolution Group, School of Biotechnology, Dublin City University, Glasnevin, Dublin 9, Ireland

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2010, 10:39  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-10-39

Published: 11 February 2010

Abstract

Background

Reproductive proteins are central to the continuation of all mammalian species. The evolution of these proteins has been greatly influenced by environmental pressures induced by pathogens, rival sperm, sexual selection and sexual conflict. Positive selection has been demonstrated in many of these proteins with particular focus on primate lineages. However, the mammalia are a diverse group in terms of mating habits, population sizes and germ line generation times. We have examined the selective pressures at work on a number of novel reproductive proteins across a wide variety of mammalia.

Results

We show that selective pressures on reproductive proteins are highly varied. Of the 10 genes analyzed in detail, all contain signatures of positive selection either across specific sites or in specific lineages or a combination of both. Our analysis of SP56 and Col1a1 are entirely novel and the results show positively selected sites present in each gene. Our findings for the Col1a1 gene are suggestive of a link between positive selection and severe disease type. We find evidence in our dataset to suggest that interacting proteins are evolving in symphony: most likely to maintain interacting functionality.

Conclusion

Our in silico analyses show positively selected sites are occurring near catalytically important regions suggesting selective pressure to maximize efficient fertilization. In those cases where a mechanism of protein function is not fully understood, the sites presented here represent ideal candidates for mutational study. This work has highlighted the widespread rate heterogeneity in mutational rates across the mammalia and specifically has shown that the evolution of reproductive proteins is highly varied depending on the species and interacting partners. We have shown that positive selection and disease are closely linked in the Col1a1 gene.