Natural selection supports escape from concerted evolution of a recently duplicated CEACAM1 paralog in the ruminant CEA gene family
Concerted evolution is often observed in multigene families such as the CEA gene family. As a result, sequence similarity of paralogous genes is significantly higher than expected from their evolutionary distance. Gene conversion, a “copy paste” DNA repair mechanism that transfers sequences from one gene to another and homologous recombination are drivers of concerted evolution. Nevertheless, some gene family members escape concerted evolution and acquire sufficient sequence differences that orthologous genes can be assigned in descendant species. Reasons why some gene family members can escape while others are captured by concerted evolution are poorly understood. By analyzing the entire CEA gene family in cattle (Bos taurus) we identified a member (CEACAM32) that was created by gene duplication and cooption of a unique transmembrane domain exon in the most recent ancestor of ruminants. CEACAM32 shows a unique, testis-specific expression pattern. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that CEACAM32 is not involved in concerted evolution of CEACAM1 paralogs in ruminants. However, analysis of gene conversion events revealed that CEACAM32 is subject to gene conversion but remarkably, these events are found in the leader exon and intron sequences but not in exons coding for the Ig-like domains. These findings suggest that natural selection hinders gene conversion affecting protein sequences of the mature protein and thereby support escape of CEACAM32 from concerted evolution.