Rapid duplication and loss of genes coding for the α chains of hemoglobin

E. A. Zimmer, S. L. Martin, S. M. Beverley, Y. W. Kan, A. C. Wilson

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Rapid cycles of gene duplication and loss appear to have been going on in the region coding for the α chain of adult hemoglobin. This is inferred from restriction endonuclease analysis of the α gene region in five species of apes, whose common ancestor lived about 10 million years ago. Because all five species resemble humans in having duplicate α genes, the duplicate state of this region is probably at least as old as the common ancestor of all these species. However, the α polypeptides within these species are about 10 times more alike than is expected for 10 million years of divergent evolution. Thus, the α polypeptides within each species have been evolving in concert. Changes in gene number have also taken place in the apes. Whereas the predominant number of α genes per chromosome is two for most species, it is three for chimpanzees. Concerted evolution appears also to have occurred, but far more slowly, in the region coding for the adult β-like chains of hemoglobin. Consideration of the structural differences between the two regions leads to the hypothesis that the lengths of the noncoding regions are important determinants of the rates at which genes are gained and lost by intergenic recombination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2158-2162
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number4 I
StatePublished - 1980


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