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JMG, Animals, Aryldialkylphosphatase, Mammals, Cetacea, Rodentia, Caniformia, Hypoxia

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Mol Biol Evol. 2023;40(5):msad104.







This work was supported by a NIH T32 Hematology Fellowship and NIH K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Fellowship to A.M.G. (NIH 3T32DK007115), a UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Academy Summer Internship to A.M., a Genomics Summer Research for Minorities internship to MB (NIH 5R25HG009886), and R01 HG009299 and R01 EY030546 NIH grants to N.L.C.


Convergent adaptation to the same environment by multiple lineages frequently involves rapid evolutionary change at the same genes, implicating these genes as important for environmental adaptation. Such adaptive molecular changes may yield either change or loss of protein function; loss of function can eliminate newly deleterious proteins or reduce energy necessary for protein production. We previously found a striking case of recurrent pseudogenization of the Paraoxonase 1 (Pon1) gene among aquatic mammal lineages-Pon1 became a pseudogene with genetic lesions, such as stop codons and frameshifts, at least four times independently in aquatic and semiaquatic mammals. Here, we assess the landscape and pace of pseudogenization by studying Pon1 sequences, expression levels, and enzymatic activity across four aquatic and semiaquatic mammal lineages: pinnipeds, cetaceans, otters, and beavers. We observe in beavers and pinnipeds an unexpected reduction in expression of Pon3, a paralog with similar expression patterns but different substrate preferences. Ultimately, in all lineages with aquatic/semiaquatic members, we find that preceding any coding-level pseudogenization events in Pon1, there is a drastic decrease in expression, followed by relaxed selection, thus allowing accumulation of disrupting mutations. The recurrent loss of Pon1 function in aquatic/semiaquatic lineages is consistent with a benefit to Pon1 functional loss in aquatic environments. Accordingly, we examine diving and dietary traits across pinniped species as potential driving forces of Pon1 functional loss. We find that loss is best associated with diving activity and likely results from changes in selective pressures associated with hypoxia and hypoxia-induced inflammation.


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