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Open Access Research article

Sequence and organization of coelacanth neurohypophysial hormone genes: Evolutionary history of the vertebrate neurohypophysial hormone gene locus

Pai-Chung Gwee1, Chris T Amemiya2, Sydney Brenner1 and Byrappa Venkatesh1*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, A*STAR (Agency for Science, Technology and Research), Biopolis, 138673, Singapore

2 Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason, Seattle, Washington 98101, USA

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2008, 8:93  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-8-93

Published: 26 March 2008

Abstract

Background

The mammalian neurohypophysial hormones, vasopressin and oxytocin are involved in osmoregulation and uterine smooth muscle contraction respectively. All jawed vertebrates contain at least one homolog each of vasopressin and oxytocin whereas jawless vertebrates contain a single neurohypophysial hormone called vasotocin. The vasopressin homolog in non-mammalian vertebrates is vasotocin; and the oxytocin homolog is mesotocin in non-eutherian tetrapods, mesotocin and [Phe2]mesotocin in lungfishes, and isotocin in ray-finned fishes. The genes encoding vasopressin and oxytocin genes are closely linked in the human and rodent genomes in a tail-to-tail orientation. In contrast, their pufferfish homologs (vasotocin and isotocin) are located on the same strand of DNA with isotocin gene located upstream of vasotocin gene separated by five genes, suggesting that this locus has experienced rearrangements in either mammalian or ray-finned fish lineage, or in both lineages. The coelacanths occupy a unique phylogenetic position close to the divergence of the mammalian and ray-finned fish lineages.

Results

We have sequenced a coelacanth (Latimeria menadoensis) BAC clone encompassing the neurohypophysial hormone genes and investigated the evolutionary history of the vertebrate neurohypophysial hormone gene locus within a comparative genomics framework. The coelacanth contains vasotocin and mesotocin genes like non-mammalian tetrapods. The coelacanth genes are present on the same strand of DNA with no intervening genes, with the vasotocin gene located upstream of the mesotocin gene. Nucleotide sequences of the second exons of the two genes are under purifying selection implying a regulatory function. We have also analyzed the neurohypophysial hormone gene locus in the genomes of opossum, chicken and Xenopus tropicalis. The opossum contains two tandem copies of vasopressin and mesotocin genes. The vasotocin and mesotocin genes in chicken and Xenopus, and the vasopressin and mesotocin genes in opossum are linked tail-to-head similar to their orthologs in coelacanth and unlike their homologs in human and rodents.

Conclusion

Our results indicate that the neurohypophysial hormone gene locus has experienced independent rearrangements in both placental mammals and teleost fishes. The coelacanth genome appears to be more stable than mammalian and teleost fish genomes. As such, it serves as a valuable outgroup for studying the evolution of mammalian and teleost fish genomes.