Genome-wide signatures of mammalian skin covering evolution

Peng Cao, Qinlong Dai, Cao Deng, Xiang Zhao, Shishan Qin, Jian Yang, Ran Ju, Zhiwen Wang, Guoqing Lu, Xiaodong Gu, Zhisong Yang, Lifeng Zhu
Science China. Life Sciences 2021 January 19
Animal body coverings provide protection and allow for adaptation to environmental pressures such as heat, ultraviolet radiation, water loss, and mechanical forces. Here, using a comparative genomics analysis of 39 mammal species spanning three skin covering types (hairless, scaly and spiny), we found some genes (e.g., UVRAG, POLH, and XPC) involved in skin inflammation, skin innate immunity, and ultraviolet radiation damage repair were under selection in hairless ocean mammals (e.g., whales and manatees). These signatures might be associated with a high risk of skin diseases from pathogens and ultraviolet radiation. Moreover, the genomes from three spiny mammal species shared convergent genomic regions (EPHB2, EPHA4, and NIN) and unique positively selected genes (FZD6, INVS, and CDC42) involved in skin cell polarity, which might be related to the development of spines. In scaly mammals, the shared convergent genomic regions (e.g., FREM2) were associated with the integrity of the skin epithelium and epidermal adhesion. This study identifies potential convergent genomic features among distantly related mammals with the same skin covering type.

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