Large species differences in the expression of carboxylesterases (CE) have been described, but the interrelationships of CEs across species are not well characterized. In the current analyses, sequences with genomic structures similar to human CEs were found in piscine, avian, and mammalian genomes. Analyses of these genes suggest that four CE groups existed prior to mammalian divergence, with another form occurring after eutherian-marsupial divergence, yielding five distinct mammalian CE groups. The CE1 and CE2 groupings appear to have undergone extensive gene duplication in species with herbivorous and omnivorous diets underscoring the potential importance of these two groups in xenobiotic metabolism. However, CE3, CE4, and CE5 have remained at one gene per species in almost all observed cases. In avian and piscine genomes, only two CE groupings each were observed in the currently available sequence data. Finally, this study presents considerations for a broader phylogenetic-based nomenclature that could encompass other serine hydrolases in addition to the CEs.
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