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Two waves of evolution in the rodent pregnancy-specific glycoprotein (Psg) gene family lead to structurally diverse PSGs


The evolution of pregnancy-specific glycoprotein (PSG) genes within the CEA gene family of primates correlates with the evolution of hemochorial placentation about 45 Myr ago. Thus, we hypothesized that hemochorial placentation with intimate contact between fetal cells and maternal immune cells favors the evolution and expansion of PSGs. With only a few exceptions, all rodents have hemochorial placentas thus the question arises whether Psgs evolved in all rodent genera.


In the analysis of 94 rodent species from 4 suborders, we identified Psg genes only in the suborder Myomorpha in three families (characteristic species in brackets), namely Muridae (mouse), Cricetidae (hamster) and Nesomyidae (giant pouched rat). All Psgs are located, as previously described for mouse and rat, in a region of the genome separated from the Cea gene family locus by several megabases, further referred to as the rodent Psg locus. In the suborders Castorimorpha (beaver), Hystricognatha (guinea pig) and Sciuromorpha (squirrel), neither Psg genes nor so called CEA-related cell adhesion molecule (Ceacam) genes were found in the Psg locus. There was even no evidence for the existence of Psgs in any other genomic region. In contrast to the Psg-harboring rodent species, which do not have activating CEACAMs, we were able to identify Ceacam genes encoding activating CEACAMs in all other rodents studied. In the Psg locus, there are genes encoding three structurally distinct CEACAM/PSGs: (i) CEACAMs composed of one N- and one A2-type domain (CEACAM9, CEACAM15), (ii) composed of two N domains (CEACAM11-CEACAM14) and (iii) composed of three to eight N domains and one A2 domain (PSGs). All of them were found to be secreted glycoproteins preferentially expressed by trophoblast cells, thus they should be considered as PSGs.


In rodents Psg genes evolved only recently in the suborder Myomorpha shortly upon their most recent common ancestor (MRCA) has coopted the retroviral genes syncytin-A and syncytin-B which enabled the evolution of the three-layered trophoblast. The expansion of Psgs is limited to the Psg locus most likely after a translocation of a CEA-related gene – possibly encoding an ITAM harboring CEACAM. According to the expression pattern two waves of gene amplification occurred, coding for structurally different PSGs.



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