Evolution of Prdm Genes in Animals: Insights from Comparative Genomics

Mol Biol Evol. 2016 Mar;33(3):679-96. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msv260. Epub 2015 Nov 11.


Prdm genes encode transcription factors with a subtype of SET domain known as the PRDF1-RIZ (PR) homology domain and a variable number of zinc finger motifs. These genes are involved in a wide variety of functions during animal development. As most Prdm genes have been studied in vertebrates, especially in mice, little is known about the evolution of this gene family. We searched for Prdm genes in the fully sequenced genomes of 93 different species representative of all the main metazoan lineages. A total of 976 Prdm genes were identified in these species. The number of Prdm genes per species ranges from 2 to 19. To better understand how the Prdm gene family has evolved in metazoans, we performed phylogenetic analyses using this large set of identified Prdm genes. These analyses allowed us to define 14 different subfamilies of Prdm genes and to establish, through ancestral state reconstruction, that 11 of them are ancestral to bilaterian animals. Three additional subfamilies were acquired during early vertebrate evolution (Prdm5, Prdm11, and Prdm17). Several gene duplication and gene loss events were identified and mapped onto the metazoan phylogenetic tree. By studying a large number of nonmetazoan genomes, we confirmed that Prdm genes likely constitute a metazoan-specific gene family. Our data also suggest that Prdm genes originated before the diversification of animals through the association of a single ancestral SET domain encoding gene with one or several zinc finger encoding genes.

Keywords: Prdm; development; evolution; metazoans; transcription factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Motifs
  • Animals
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Duplication
  • Genome
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Genomics* / methods
  • Humans
  • Multigene Family
  • Phylogeny
  • Protein Interaction Domains and Motifs
  • Transcription Factors / chemistry
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Zinc Fingers / genetics*


  • Transcription Factors