Comparison of Evolutionary Relationships between Branchiostoma floridae, Ciona intestinalis, and Homo sapiens Globins Provide Evidence of Gene Co-Option and Convergent Evolution

Int J Mol Sci. 2023 Nov 6;24(21):16009. doi: 10.3390/ijms242116009.


Globins have been studied as model proteins to elucidate the principles of protein evolution. This was achieved by understanding the relationship between amino acid sequence, three-dimensional structure, physicochemical properties, and physiological function. Previous molecular phylogenies of chordate globin genes revealed the monophyletic evolution of urochordate globins and suggested convergent evolution. However, to provide evidence of convergent evolution, it is necessary to determine the physicochemical and functional similarities between vertebrates and urochordate globins. In this study, we determined the expression patterns of Ciona globin genes using real-time RT-PCR. Two genes (Gb-1 and Gb-2) were predominantly expressed in the branchial sac, heart, and hemocytes and were induced under hypoxia. Combined with the sequence analysis, our findings suggest that Gb-1/-2 correspond to vertebrate hemoglobin-α/-β. However, we did not find a robust similarity between Gb-3, Gb-4, and vertebrate globins. These results suggested that, even though Ciona globins obtained their unique functions differently from vertebrate globins, the two of them shared some physicochemical features and physiological functions. Our findings offer a good example for understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying gene co-option and convergence, which could lead to evolutionary innovations.

Keywords: androglobin; ascidian; cytoglobin; hemoglobin; myoglobin; neuroglobin.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Ciona intestinalis* / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Globins / genetics
  • Humans
  • Lancelets* / genetics
  • Multigene Family
  • Phylogeny
  • Vertebrates / genetics


  • Globins

Grants and funding