Human DHRS2 and DHRS4 genes code for similar NADP-dependent short-chain carbonyl-reductase enzymes having different substrate specificity. Human DHRS2 and DHRS4 enzymes share several common sequence motives including residues responsible for coenzyme binding as well as for the intimate catalytic oxido-reductase mechanism, while their substrate-binding sequences have very low similarity. We found that DHRS2 and DHRS4 genes are syntenic outparalogues originated from a duplication of the DHRS4 gene that took place before the formation of the mammalian clade. DHRS2 gene evolved more rapidly and underwent positive selection on more sites than the DHRS4 gene. DHRS2 sites under positive selection were mainly located on the enzyme active site thus showing that substrate specificity drove the divergence from the DHRS4 enzyme. Rapid divergent evolution brought the human DHRS2 enzyme to have subcellular localization, synthesis regulation and specialized cellular functions very different from those of the human DHRS4 enzyme.
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