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Open Access Research article

Evolution of the hepcidin gene in primates

Ludovica Segat1*, Alessandra Pontillo1, Michele Milanese1, Alessandro Tossi2 and Sergio Crovella13

Author Affiliations

1 Genetic Unit, IRCCS Burlo Garofolo and Department of Reproductive and Developmental Sciences, University of Trieste, Trieste, Italy

2 Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Macromolecular Chemistry, University of Trieste, Trieste, Italy

3 Department of Genetics, Federal University of Pernambuco, Recife, Brazil

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BMC Genomics 2008, 9:120  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-9-120

Published: 5 March 2008



Hepcidin/LEAP-1 is an iron regulatory hormone originally identified as an antimicrobial peptide. As part of a systematic analysis of the evolution of host defense peptides in primates, we have sequenced the orthologous gene from 14 species of non-human primates.


The sequence of the mature peptide is highly conserved amongst all the analyzed species, being identical to the human one in great apes and gibbons, with a single residue conservative variation in Old-World monkeys and with few substitutions in New-World monkeys.


Our analysis indicates that hepcidin's role as a regulatory hormone, which involves interaction with a conserved receptor (ferroportin), may result in conservation over most of its sequence, with the exception of the stretch between residues 15 and 18, which in New-World monkeys (as well as in other mammals) shows a significant variation, possibly indicating that this structural region is involved in other functions.