Serluca, F.C., Sidow, A., Mably, J.D., and Fishman, MC. (2001) Partitioning of tissue expression accompanies multiple duplications of the Na+/K+ ATPase alpha subunit gene. Genome research. 11(10):1625-1631.
Vertebrate genomes contain multiple copies of related genes that arose through gene duplication. In the past it has been proposed that these duplicated genes were retained because of acquisition of novel beneficial functions. A more recent model, the duplication-degeneration-complementation hypothesis (DDC), posits that the functions of a single gene may become separately allocated among the duplicated genes, rendering both duplicates essential. Thus far, empirical evidence for this model has been limited to the engrailed and sox family of developmental regulators, and it has been unclear whether it may also apply to ubiquitously expressed genes with essential functions for cell survival. Here we describe the cloning of three zebrafish alpha subunits of the Na(+),K(+)-ATPase and a comprehensive evolutionary analysis of this gene family. The predicted amino acid sequences are extremely well conserved among vertebrates. The evolutionary relationships and the map positions of these genes and of other alpha-like sequences indicate that both tandem and ploidy duplications contributed to the expansion of this gene family in the teleost lineage. The duplications are accompanied by acquisition of clear functional specialization, consistent with the DDC model of genome evolution.