β-defensin 1 gene variability among non-human primates

Massimiliano Del Pero, Michele Boniotto, Dario Zuccon, Piero Cervella, Andrea Spanò, Antonio Amoroso, Sergio Crovella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Defensins are a recently described family of peptides that play an important role in innate immunity. Recent studies have shown that defensins exhibit a broad spectrum of antimicrobial activities against bacteria and fungi. Three families have been identified so far in mammals, α-defensins, β-defensins and θ-defensins, presumably derived from a common ancestral defensin. A long-term study on the evolution of these multigene families among primates has been undertaken to investigate: (1) the degree of interspecific differentiation; (2) the genetic mechanisms responsible for the variability of these molecules; and (3) the possible role of different environmental factors in their evolution. Nucleotide sequences have been obtained from great and lesser apes, several African and Asian catarrhine monkeys and one New World monkey. A comparison of rates of synonymous and nonsynonymous (amino-acid changing) nucleotide substitution indicates that the primate β-defensin 1 gene evolved under a pattern of random nucleotide substitution as predicted by the neutral theory of molecular evolution. These results are not consistent with the hypothesis that the primate β-defensin 1 gene has diversified in response to changes in the microbial species to which a given host is exposed. Analyses of interpecific variability have yielded some insights about the pattern of molecular evolution of the gene among primates. Humans and great apes present high levels of sequence similarity, differing in only one amino acid residue in the mature peptide. Compared with these taxa, hylobatids and cercopithecids exhibit 3-4 amino acid substitutions, some of which increase the net charge of the active molecule.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)907-913
Number of pages7
JournalImmunogenetics
Volume53
Issue number10-11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2002

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Keywords

  • Antimicrobial peptide
  • Defensins
  • Innate immune system
  • Molecular adaptation
  • Molecular evolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Immunology

Cite this

Del Pero, M., Boniotto, M., Zuccon, D., Cervella, P., Spanò, A., Amoroso, A., & Crovella, S. (2002). β-defensin 1 gene variability among non-human primates. Immunogenetics, 53(10-11), 907-913. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00251-001-0412-x