In this paper, we show that the BAGE (B melanoma antigen) gene family was generated by chromosome rearrangements that occurred during the evolution of hominoids. An 84-kb DNA fragment derived from the phylogenetic 7q36 region was duplicated in the juxtacentromeric region of either chromosome 13 or chromosome 21. The duplicated region contained a fragment of the MLL3 gene, which, after juxtacentromeric reshuffling, generated the ancestral BAGE gene. Then, this ancestral gene gave rise to several independent genes through successive rounds of inter- and intrachromosome duplications. Comparison of synonymous and nonsynonymous mutations in putative coding regions shows that BAGE genes, but not the BAGE gene fragments, are under selective pressure. Our data strongly suggest that BAGE proteins have a function and that juxtacentromeric regions, whose plasticity is now largely proved, are not a simple junkyard of gene fragments, but may be the birth site of novel genes. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science (USA). All rights reserved.
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