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Positive selection in gamete interaction proteins in Carnivora.

Molecular Ecology 2024 Februrary 7
The absence of robust interspecific isolation barriers among pantherines, including the iconic South American jaguar (Panthera onca), led us to study molecular evolution of typically rapidly evolving reproductive proteins within this subfamily and related groups. In this study, we delved into the evolutionary forces acting on the zona pellucida (ZP) gamete interaction protein family and the sperm-oocyte fusion protein pair IZUMO1-JUNO across the Carnivora order, distinguishing between Caniformia and Feliformia suborders and anticipating few significant diversifying changes in the Pantherinae subfamily. A chromosome-resolved jaguar genome assembly facilitated coding sequences, enabling the reconstruction of protein evolutionary histories. Examining sequence variability across more than 30 Carnivora species revealed that Feliformia exhibited significantly lower diversity compared to its sister taxa, Caniformia. Molecular evolution analyses of ZP2 and ZP3, subunits directly involved in sperm-recognition, unveiled diversifying positive selection in Feliformia, Caniformia and Pantherinae, although no significant changes were linked to sperm binding. Structural cross-linking ZP subunits, ZP4 and ZP1 exhibited lower levels or complete absence of positive selection. Notably, the fusion protein IZUMO1 displayed prominent positive selection signatures and sites in basal lineages of both Caniformia and Feliformia, extending along the Caniformia subtree but absent in Pantherinae. Conversely, JUNO did not exhibit any positive selection signatures across tested lineages and clades. Eight Caniformia-specific positive selected sites in IZUMO1 were detected within two JUNO-interaction clusters. Our findings provide for the first time insights into the evolutionary trajectories of ZP proteins and the IZUMO1-JUNO gamete interaction pair within the Carnivora order.

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