The evolution of genes encoding for green fluorescent proteins: insights from cephalochordates (amphioxus)

TitleThe evolution of genes encoding for green fluorescent proteins: insights from cephalochordates (amphioxus)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsYue J.X, Holland N.D, Holland LZ, Deheyn DD
JournalScientific Reports
Date Published2016/06
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number2045-2322
Accession NumberWOS:000377998400001
Keywordsalignments; asymmetron-lucayanum cephalochordata; bahamas; bioluminescence; branchiostoma-floridae; family; gfp-like proteins; lancelet; pigments; sequence

Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) was originally found in cnidarians, and later in copepods and cephalochordates (amphioxus) (Branchiostoma spp). Here, we looked for GFP-encoding genes in Asymmetron, an early-diverged cephalochordate lineage, and found two such genes closely related to some of the Branchiostoma GFPs. Dim fluorescence was found throughout the body in adults of Asymmetron lucayanum, and, as in Branchiostoma floridae, was especially intense in the ripe ovaries. Spectra of the fluorescence were similar between Asymmetron and Branchiostoma. Lineage-specific expansion of GFP-encoding genes in the genus Branchiostoma was observed, largely driven by tandem duplications. Despite such expansion, purifying selection has strongly shaped the evolution of GFP-encoding genes in cephalochordates, with apparent relaxation for highly duplicated clades. All cephalochordate GFP-encoding genes are quite different from those of copepods and cnidarians. Thus, the ancestral cephalochordates probably had GFP, but since GFP appears to be lacking in more early-diverged deuterostomes (echinoderms, hemichordates), it is uncertain whether the ancestral cephalochordates (i.e. the common ancestor of Asymmetron and Branchiostoma) acquired GFP by horizontal gene transfer (HGT) from copepods or cnidarians or inherited it from the common ancestor of copepods and deuterostomes, i.e. the ancestral bilaterians.

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