Positive selection within sperm-egg adhesion domains of fertilin: an ADAM gene with a potential role in fertilization

Mol Biol Evol. 2003 Jan;20(1):21-9. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msg002.


Genes with a role in fertilization show a common pattern of rapid evolution. The role played by positive selection versus lack of selective constraints has been more difficult to establish. One problem arises from attempts to detect selection in an overall gene sequence analysis. I have analyzed the pattern of molecular evolution of fertilin, a gene coding for a heterodimeric sperm protein belonging to the ADAM (A disintegrin and A metalloprotease) gene family. A nonsynonymous to synonymous rate ratio (d(N)/d(S)) analysis for different protein domains of fertilin alpha and fertilin beta showed d(N)/d(S) < 1, suggesting that purifying selection has shaped fertilin's evolution. However, an analysis of the distribution of single positively selected codon sites using phylogentic analysis by maximum likelihood (PAML) showed sites within adhesion domains (disintegrin and cysteine-rich) of fertilin beta evolving under positive selection. The region 3' to the EGF-like domain of fertilin alpha, where the transmembrane and cytoplasmic tail regions are supposed to be localized, showed higher d(N) and d(S) than any other fertilin alpha region. However, it was not possible to identify positively selected codon sites due to ambiguous alignments of the carboxy-end region (ClustalX vs. DiAlign2). When this region was excluded from the PAML analysis, most single positively selected codon sites were concentrated within adhesion domains (cysteine-rich and EGF-like). The use of an ancestral sequence prior to a recent duplication event of fertilin alpha among non-Hominidae primates (Macaca, Papio, and Saguinus) revealed that the duplication is partially responsible for masking the detection of positively selected sites within the disintegrin domain. Finally, most ADAM genes with a potential role in sperm maturation and/or fertilization showed significantly higher d(N) estimates than other ADAM genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • ADAM Proteins
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Codon
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Fertilins
  • Fertilization / genetics*
  • Fertilization / physiology
  • Gene Duplication
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Male
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / chemistry*
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / classification
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / genetics*
  • Metalloendopeptidases / chemistry*
  • Metalloendopeptidases / classification
  • Metalloendopeptidases / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Multigene Family
  • Phylogeny
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Selection, Genetic*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Sperm-Ovum Interactions
  • Spermatozoa / chemistry


  • Codon
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • ADAM Proteins
  • ADAM2 protein, human
  • Adam1a protein, mouse
  • Adam2 protein, mouse
  • Fertilins
  • Metalloendopeptidases