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Chromosomal evolution of the PKD1 gene family in primates

Stefan Kirsch1, Juanjo Pasantes14, Andreas Wolf2, Nadia Bogdanova3, Claudia Münch1, Petra Pennekamp3, Michael Krawczak2, Bernd Dworniczak3 and Werner Schempp1*

Author Affiliations

1 Institut für Humangenetik und Anthropologie, Universität Freiburg, Breisacher Str. 33, 79106 Freiburg, Germany

2 Institut für Medizinische Informatik und Statistik, Universität Kiel, Brunswiker Str. 10, 24105 Kiel, Germany

3 Institut für Humangenetik, Universität Münster, Vesaliusweg 12-14, 48129 Münster, Germany

4 Department of Biochemistry, Genetics & Immunology, University of Vigo, E-36200 Vigo, Spain

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2008, 8:263  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-8-263

Published: 26 September 2008



The autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is mostly caused by mutations in the PKD1 (polycystic kidney disease 1) gene located in 16p13.3. Moreover, there are six pseudogenes of PKD1 that are located proximal to the master gene in 16p13.1. In contrast, no pseudogene could be detected in the mouse genome, only a single copy gene on chromosome 17. The question arises how the human situation originated phylogenetically. To address this question we applied comparative FISH-mapping of a human PKD1-containing genomic BAC clone and a PKD1-cDNA clone to chromosomes of a variety of primate species and the dog as a non-primate outgroup species.


Comparative FISH with the PKD1-cDNA clone clearly shows that in all primate species studied distinct single signals map in subtelomeric chromosomal positions orthologous to the short arm of human chromosome 16 harbouring the master PKD1 gene. Only in human and African great apes, but not in orangutan, FISH with both BAC and cDNA clones reveals additional signal clusters located proximal of and clearly separated from the PKD1 master genes indicating the chromosomal position of PKD1 pseudogenes in 16p of these species, respectively. Indeed, this is in accordance with sequencing data in human, chimpanzee and orangutan. Apart from the master PKD1 gene, six pseudogenes are identified in both, human and chimpanzee, while only a single-copy gene is present in the whole-genome sequence of orangutan. The phylogenetic reconstruction of the PKD1-tree reveals that all human pseudogenes are closely related to the human PKD1 gene, and all chimpanzee pseudogenes are closely related to the chimpanzee PKD1 gene. However, our statistical analyses provide strong indication that gene conversion events may have occurred within the PKD1 family members of human and chimpanzee, respectively.


PKD1 must have undergone amplification very recently in hominid evolution. Duplicative transposition of the PKD1 gene and further amplification and evolution of the PKD1 pseudogenes may have arisen in a common ancestor of Homo, Pan and Gorilla ~8 MYA. Reticulate evolutionary processes such as gene conversion and non-allelic homologous recombination (NAHR) may have resulted in concerted evolution of PKD1 family members in human and chimpanzee and, thus, simulate an independent evolution of the PKD1 pseudogenes from their master PKD1 genes in human and chimpanzee.