New genes originated via multiple recombinational pathways in the β-globin gene family of rodents

Federico G. Hoffmann, Juan C. Opazo, Jay F. Storz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Species differences in the size or membership composition of multigene families can be attributed to lineage-specific additions of new genes via duplication, losses of genes via deletion or inactivation, and the creation of chimeric genes via domain shuffling or gene fusion. In principle, it should be possible to infer the recombinational pathways responsible for each of these different types of genomic change by conducting detailed comparative analyses of genomic sequence data. Here, we report an attempt to unravel the complex evolutionary history of the β-globin gene family in a taxonomically diverse set of rodent species. The main objectives were: 1) to characterize the genomic structure of the β-globin gene cluster of rodents; 2) to assign orthologous and paralogous relationships among duplicate copies of β-like globin genes; and 3) to infer the specific recombinational pathways responsible for gene duplications, gene deletions, and the creation of chimeric fusion genes. Results of our comparative genomic analyses revealed that variation in gene family size among rodent species is mainly attributable to the differential gain and loss of later expressed β-globin genes via unequal crossing-over. However, two distinct recombinational mechanisms were implicated in the creation of chimeric fusion genes. In muroid rodents, a chimeric γ/ε fusion gene was created by unequal crossing-over between the embryonic ε- and γ-globin genes. Interestingly, this γ/ε fusion gene was generated in the same fashion as the "anti-Lepore" 5′-δ-(β/δ)-β-3′ duplication mutant in humans (the reciprocal exchange product of the pathological hemoglobin Lepore deletion mutant). By contrast, in the house mouse, Mus musculus, a chimeric β/δ fusion pseudogene was created by a β-globin → δ-globin gene conversion event. Although the γ/ε and β/δ fusion genes share a similar chimeric gene structure, they originated via completely different recombinational pathways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2589-2600
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular biology and evolution
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2008


  • Chimeric fusion genes
  • Gene conversion
  • Gene duplication
  • Gene family evolution
  • Globin genes
  • Hemoglobin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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