Molecular and evolutionary genetics of the X-linked visual pigment genes in humans and New World monkeys

Song-Kun Shyue, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Normal humans have one red and at least one green visual pigment genes. These genes are tightly linked as tandem repeats on the X chromosome and each of them has six exons. There is only one X-linked visual pigment gene in New World monkeys (NWMs) but the locus has three polymorphic alleles encoding red, yellow and green visual pigments, respectively. The spectral properties of the squirrel monkey and the marmoset (both NWMs) have been studied and partial sequences of the three alleles are available. To study the evolutionary history of these X-linked opsin genes in humans and NWMs, coding and intron sequences of the three squirrel monkey alleles and the three marmoset alleles were amplified by PCR followed by subcloning and sequencing. Introns 2 and 4 of the human red and green pigment genes were also sequenced. The results obtained are as follows: (1) The sequences of introns 2 and 4 of the human red and green opsin genes are significantly more similar between the two genes than are coding sequences, contrary to the usual situation where coding regions are better conserved in evolution than are introns. The high similarities in the two introns are probably due to recent gene conversion events during evolution of the human lineage. (2) Phylogenetic analysis of both intron and exon sequences indicates that the phylogenetic tree of the available primate opsin genes is the same as the species tree. The two human genes were derived from a gene duplication event after the divergence of the human and NWM lineages. The three alleles in each of the two NWM species diverged after the split of the two NWMs but have persisted in the population for at least 5 million years. (3) Allelic gene conversion might have occurred between the three squirrel monkey alleles. (4) A model of additive effect of hydroxyl-bearing amino acids on spectral tuning is proposed by treating some unknown variables as groups. Under the assumption that some residues have no effect, it is found that at least five amino acid residues, at positions 178 (3 nm), 180 (5 nm), 230 ($-$4 nm), 277 (9 nm) and 285 (13 nm), have linear spectral tuning effects. (5) Adaptive evolution of the opsin genes to different spectral peaks was observed at four residues that are important for spectral tuning.

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Recommended Citation

Shyue, Song-Kun, "Molecular and evolutionary genetics of the X-linked visual pigment genes in humans and New World monkeys" (1994). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9426537.