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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Divergent evolution in the cytoplasmic domains of PRLR and GHR genes in Artiodactyla

Terhi Iso-Touru1*, Juha Kantanen1, Meng-Hua Li13, Zygmunt Gizejewski2 and Johanna Vilkki1

Author Affiliations

1 Biotechnology and Food Research, MTT Agrifood Research Finland, 31600 Jokioinen, Finland

2 Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research, Polish Academy of Sciences, Pl-10-747 Olsztyn, Tuwima 10, Poland

3 Ecological Genetics Research Unit, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, PO Box 65, FI-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2009, 9:172  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-9-172

Published: 22 July 2009



Prolactin receptor (PRLR) and growth hormone receptor (GHR) belong to the large superfamily of class 1 cytokine receptors. Both of them have been identified as candidate genes affecting key quantitative traits, like growth and reproduction in livestock. We have previously studied the molecular anatomy of the cytoplasmic domain of GHR in different cattle breeds and artiodactyl species. In this study we have analysed the corresponding cytoplasmic signalling region of PRLR.


We sequenced PRLR gene exon 10, coding for the major part of the cytoplasmic domain, from cattle, American bison, European bison, yak, sheep, pig and wild boar individuals. We found different patterns of variation in the two receptors within and between ruminants and pigs. Pigs and bison species have no variation within GHR exon 10, but show high haplotype diversity for the PRLR exon 10. In cattle, PRLR shows lower diversity than GHR. The Bovinae PRLR haplotype network fits better the known phylogenetic relationships between the species than that of the GHR, where differences within cattle breeds are larger than between the different species in the subfamily. By comparison with the wild boar haplotypes, a high number of subsequent nonsynonymous substitutions seem to have accumulated in the pig PRLR exon 10 after domestication.


Both genes affect a multitude of traits that have been targets of selection after domestication. The genes seem to have responded differently to different selection pressures imposed by human artificial selection. The results suggest possible effects of selective sweeps in GHR before domestication in the pig lineage or species divergence in the Bison lineage. The PRLR results may be explained by strong directional selection in pigs or functional switching.