The molecular evolution of vertebrate growth hormones: a pattern of near-stasis interrupted by sustained bursts of rapid change

J Mol Evol. 1996 Aug;43(2):93-100. doi: 10.1007/BF02337353.


It has been demonstrated previously that in mammals the evolution of pituitary growth hormone shows an unusual pattern, with an underlying slow rate and at least two sustained bursts of rapid evolution (in the artiodactyls and primates), during which the rate increased at least 25-fold. It is demonstrated here that a similar pattern applies for growth hormone evolution throughout the vertebrates, with a basal rate similar to that seen in mammals, but bursts of rapid evolution in the amphibia and the elasmobranchs, and several bursts in the teleosts. The placental growth-hormone-like proteins of primates show a similar pattern. It is argued that the bursts of evolution seen for growth hormone are a consequence of selection and that this may reflect changes in the functions of the hormone additional to its basic growth-promoting actions.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Artiodactyla
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Female
  • Fishes
  • Growth Hormone / genetics*
  • Mammals
  • Phylogeny*
  • Pituitary Gland
  • Placenta / physiology
  • Placental Lactogen / genetics
  • Pregnancy
  • Primates
  • Vertebrates / genetics*


  • Growth Hormone
  • Placental Lactogen