Sullivan, C., Lage, C.R., Yoder, J.A., Postlethwait, J.H., Kim, C.H. (2017) Evolutionary divergence of the vertebrate TNFAIP8 gene family: Applying the spotted gar orthology bridge to understand ohnolog loss in teleosts. PLoS One. 12:e0179517.
Comparative functional genomic studies require the proper identification of gene orthologs to properly exploit animal biomedical research models. To identify gene orthologs, comprehensive, conserved gene synteny analyses are necessary to unwind gene histories that are convoluted by two rounds of early vertebrate genome duplication, and in the case of the teleosts, a third round, the teleost genome duplication (TGD). Recently, the genome of the spotted gar, a holostean outgroup to the teleosts that did not undergo this third genome duplication, was sequenced and applied as an orthology bridge to facilitate the identification of teleost orthologs to human genes and to enhance the power of teleosts as biomedical models. In this study, we apply the spotted gar orthology bridge to help describe the gene history of the vertebrate TNFAIP8 family. Members of the TNFAIP8 gene family have been linked to regulation of immune function and homeostasis and the development of multiple cancer types. Through a conserved gene synteny analysis, we identified zebrafish orthologs to human TNFAIP8L1 and TNFAIP8L3 genes and two co-orthologs to human TNFAIP8L2, but failed to identify an ortholog to human TNFAIP8. Through the application of the orthology bridge, we determined that teleost orthologs to human TNFAIP8 genes were likely lost in a genome inversion event after their divergence from their common ancestor with spotted gar. These findings demonstrate the value of this enhanced approach to gene history analysis and support the development of teleost models to study complex questions related to an array of biomedical issues, including immunity and cancer.