AdvisorNachman, Michael W.
Committee ChairNachman, Michael W.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractIt is not clear whether genes of the innate immune system of vertebrates are subject to the same selective pressures as genes of the adaptive immune system, despite the fact that innate immunity genes lie directly at the interface between host and pathogens. The lack of consensus about the incidence, type, and strength of selection acting on vertebrate innate immunity genes motivated this study. The goal of this work was to elucidate the general principles of innate immune receptor evolution within and between species. A phylogenetic analysis of the Toll-like receptor 5 (TLR5) in primates showed an excess of nonsynonymous substitutions at certain codons, a pattern that is consistent with recurrent positive selection. The putative sites under selection often displayed radical substitutions, independent parallel changes, and were located in functionally important regions of the protein. In contrast with this interspecific pattern, population genetic analysis of this gene in humans and chimpanzees did not provide conclusive evidence of recent selection. The frequency and distribution of a TLR5 null mutation in human populations further suggested that TLR5 function might be partially redundant in the human immune system (Appendix A). Comparable analyses of the remaining nine human TLRs produced similar results and further pointed to a biologically meaningful difference in the pattern of molecular evolution between TLRs specialized in the recognition of viral nucleic acids and the other TLRs (Appendix B). The general picture that emerges from these studies challenges the conventional idea that pattern recognition receptors are subject to an extreme degree of functional constraint dictated by the recognition of molecules that are essential for microbial fitness. Instead, TLRs display patterns of substitution between species that reflect an old history of positive selection in primates. A common theme, however, is that only a restricted proportion of sites is under positive selection, indicating an equally important role for purifying selection as a conservative force in the evolution of this gene family. A comparative analysis of evolutionary rates at fifteen loci involved in innate, intrinsic and adaptive immunity, and mating systems revealed that more promiscuous species are on average under stronger selection at defense genes (Appendix C). Although the effect is weak, this suggests that sexual promiscuity plays some role in the evolution of immune loci by affecting the risk of contracting infectious diseases.
Degree ProgramEcology & Evolutionary Biology