Table of Contents
International Journal of Evolutionary Biology
Volume 2011, Article ID 274975, 9 pages
Research Article

Elevated Evolutionary Rates among Functionally Diverged Reproductive Genes across Deep Vertebrate Lineages

1Department of Botany, University of British Columbia, 6270 University Boulevard, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z4
2Department of Biology, Temple University, 1900 North 12th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19122, USA

Received 1 February 2011; Revised 17 May 2011; Accepted 23 May 2011

Academic Editor: Jose M. Eirin-Lopez

Copyright © 2011 Christopher J. Grassa and Rob J. Kulathinal. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Among closely related taxa, proteins involved in reproduction generally evolve more rapidly than other proteins. Here, we apply a functional and comparative genomics approach to compare functional divergence across a deep phylogenetic array of egg-laying and live-bearing vertebrate taxa. We aligned and annotated a set of 4,986 1 : 1 : 1 : 1 : 1 orthologs in Anolis carolinensis (green lizard), Danio rerio (zebrafish), Xenopus tropicalis (frog), Gallus gallus (chicken), and Mus musculus (mouse) according to function using ESTs from available reproductive (including testis and ovary) and non-reproductive tissues as well as Gene Ontology. For each species lineage, genes were further classified as tissue-specific (found in a single tissue) or tissue-expressed (found in multiple tissues). Within independent vertebrate lineages, we generally find that gonadal-specific genes evolve at a faster rate than gonadal-expressed genes and significantly faster than non-reproductive genes. Among the gonadal set, testis genes are generally more diverged than ovary genes. Surprisingly, an opposite but nonsignificant pattern is found among the subset of orthologs that remained functionally conserved across all five lineages. These contrasting evolutionary patterns found between functionally diverged and functionally conserved reproductive orthologs provide evidence for pervasive and potentially cryptic lineage-specific selective processes on ancestral reproductive systems in vertebrates.