Extraordinary sequence divergence at Tsga8, an X-linked gene involved in mouse spermiogenesis

Jeffrey M. Good, Dan Vanderpool, Kimberly L. Smith, Michael W. Nachman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The X chromosome plays an important role in both adaptive evolution and speciation. We used a molecular evolutionary screen of X-linked genes potentially involved in reproductive isolation in mice to identify putative targets of recurrent positive selection. We then sequenced five very rapidly evolving genes within and between several closely related species of mice in the genus Mus. All five genes were involved in male reproduction and four of the genes showed evidence of recurrent positive selection. The most remarkable evolutionary patterns were found at Testis-specific gene a8 (Tsga8), a spermatogenesis-specific gene expressed during postmeiotic chromatin condensation and nuclear transformation. Tsga8 was characterized by extremely high levels of insertion-deletion variation of an alanine-rich repetitive motif in natural populations of Mus domesticus and M. musculus, differing in length from the reference mouse genome by up to 89 amino acids (27% of the total protein length). This population-level variation was coupled with striking divergence in protein sequence and length between closely related mouse species. Although no clear orthologs had previously been described for Tsga8 in other mammalian species, we have identified a highly divergent hypothetical gene on the rat X chromosome that shares clear orthology with the 5′ and 3′ ends of Tsga8. Further inspection of this ortholog verified that it is expressed in rat testis and shares remarkable similarity with mouse Tsga8 across several general features of the protein sequence despite no conservation of nucleotide sequence across over 60% of the rat-coding domain. Overall, Tsga8 appears to be one of the most rapidly evolving genes to have been described in rodents. We discuss the potential evolutionary causes and functional implications of this extraordinary divergence and the possible contribution of Tsga8 and the other four genes we examined to reproductive isolation in mice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1675-1686
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2011


  • DNA binding
  • Mus
  • X chromosome
  • chromatin condensation
  • male reproduction
  • positive selection
  • reproductive isolation


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