Type II melanoma-associated antigens (MAGE) are a subgroup of about a dozen proteins found in various locations in the genome and expressed in normal tissues, thus are not related to cancer as the type I MAGE genes. This gene family exists as a single copy in non-mammals and monotremata, but found as two copies in metatherians and occur as a diverse group in all eutherians. Our studies suggest MAGED2 as the ancestor of this subfamily and the most likely evolutionary history of eutherian type II MAGE genes is hereby proposed based on synteny conservation, phylogenetic relations, genome location, homology conservation, and the protein and gene structures. Type II genes can be divided into two: those with 13 exons (MAGED1, MAGED2, TRO, and MAGED4) and those with only one exon (MAGEE1, MAGEE2, MAGEF1, NSMCE3, MAGEH1, MAGEL2, and NDN) with different evolutionary patterns. Our results suggest a need to change the gene nomenclature to MAGE1 (the ancestral gene), currently designated as LOC103095671 and LOC100935086, in opossum and Tasmanian devil, respectively, and MAGE2 (the duplicated one), currently designated as LOC100617402 and NDNL2, respectively, to avoid confusion. We reconstructed the phylogenetic relationships among 23 mammalian species using the combined sequences of MAGED1, MAGED2, MAGEL2, and NDN, because of their high divergence, and found high levels of support, being able to resolve the phylogenetic relationships among Euarchontoglires, Laurasiatheria, Afrotheria, and Xenarthra, as an example that small, but phylogenetically informative sequences, can be very useful for resolving basal mammalian clades.
Keywords: Ancestral Gene; Duplication Event; Eutherian Evolution; Rapid Diversification; Tasmanian Devil.