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Open Access Research article

Extensive lineage-specific gene duplication and evolution of the spiggin multi-gene family in stickleback

Ryouka Kawahara* and Mutsumi Nishida

Author Affiliations

Ocean Research Institute, University of Tokyo, 1-15-1 Minamidai, Nakano-ku, Tokyo 164-8639, Japan

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2007, 7:209  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-7-209

Published: 4 November 2007

Abstract

Background

The threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) has a characteristic reproductive mode; mature males build nests using a secreted glue-like protein called spiggin. Although recent studies reported multiple occurrences of genes that encode this glue-like protein spiggin in threespine and ninespine sticklebacks, it is still unclear how many genes compose the spiggin multi-gene family.

Results

Genome sequence analysis of threespine stickleback showed that there are at least five spiggin genes and two pseudogenes, whereas a single spiggin homolog occurs in the genomes of other fishes. Comparative genome sequence analysis demonstrated that Muc19, a single-copy mucous gene in human and mouse, is an ortholog of spiggin. Phylogenetic and molecular evolutionary analyses of these sequences suggested that an ancestral spiggin gene originated from a member of the mucin gene family as a single gene in the common ancestor of teleosts, and gene duplications of spiggin have occurred in the stickleback lineage. There was inter-population variation in the copy number of spiggin genes and positive selection on some codons, indicating that additional gene duplication/deletion events and adaptive evolution at some amino acid sites may have occurred in each stickleback population.

Conclusion

A number of spiggin genes exist in the threespine stickleback genome. Our results provide insight into the origin and dynamic evolutionary process of the spiggin multi-gene family in the threespine stickleback lineage. The dramatic evolution of genes for mucous substrates may have contributed to the generation of distinct characteristics such as "bio-glue" in vertebrates.