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Genomic organization and molecular phylogenies of the beta (β) keratin multigene family in the chicken (Gallus gallus) and zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata): implications for feather evolution

Department of Biological Sciences, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29205, USA.
BMC Evolutionary Biology (Impact Factor: 3.41). 05/2010; 10:148. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2148-10-148
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The epidermal appendages of reptiles and birds are constructed of beta (beta) keratins. The molecular phylogeny of these keratins is important to understanding the evolutionary origin of these appendages, especially feathers. Knowing that the crocodilian beta-keratin genes are closely related to those of birds, the published genomes of the chicken and zebra finch provide an opportunity not only to compare the genomic organization of their beta-keratins, but to study their molecular evolution in archosaurians.
The subfamilies (claw, feather, feather-like, and scale) of beta-keratin genes are clustered in the same 5' to 3' order on microchromosome 25 in chicken and zebra finch, although the number of claw and feather genes differs between the species. Molecular phylogenies show that the monophyletic scale genes are the basal group within birds and that the monophyletic avian claw genes form the basal group to all feather and feather-like genes. Both species have a number of feather clades on microchromosome 27 that form monophyletic groups. An additional monophyletic cluster of feather genes exist on macrochromosome 2 for each species. Expression sequence tag analysis for the chicken demonstrates that all feather beta-keratin clades are expressed.
Similarity in the overall genomic organization of beta-keratins in Galliformes and Passeriformes suggests similar organization in all Neognathae birds, and perhaps in the ancestral lineages leading to modern birds, such as the paravian Anchiornis huxleyi. Phylogenetic analyses demonstrate that evolution of archosaurian epidermal appendages in the lineage leading to birds was accompanied by duplication and divergence of an ancestral beta-keratin gene cluster. As morphological diversification of epidermal appendages occurred and the beta-keratin multigene family expanded, novel beta-keratin genes were selected for novel functions within appendages such as feathers.

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Available from: Roger H. Sawyer, May 29, 2015
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