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Evolution has shaped the organisation of vertebrate genomes, including the human genome. To shed further light on genome history, we have cloned and analysed an HMG gene from lamprey, representing one of the earliest vertebrate lineages. Genes of the HMG1/2 family encode chromosomal proteins that bind DNA in a non-sequence-specific manner, and have been implicated in a variety of cellular processes dependent on chromatin structure. They are characterised by two copies of a conserved motif, the HMG box, followed by an acidic C-terminal region. We report here the cloning of a cDNA clone from the river lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis containing a gene with two HMG boxes and an acidic tail; we designate this gene LfHMG1. Molecular phylogenetic analysis shows that LfHMG1 is descended from a gene ancestral to mammalian HMG1 and HMG2. This implies that there was a duplication event in the HMG1/2 gene family, that occurred after the divergence of the jawed and jawless fishes, 450 million years ago. This conclusion supports and refines the hypothesis that there was a period of extensive gene duplication early in vertebrate evolution. We also show that the HMG1/2 family originated before the protostomes and deuterostomes diverged, over 525 million years ago.


Journal article



Publication Date





99 - 105


Amino Acid Sequence, Animals, Base Sequence, Biological Evolution, Cloning, Molecular, DNA-Binding Proteins, High Mobility Group Proteins, Lampreys, Molecular Sequence Data, Multigene Family, Phylogeny, Sequence Alignment, Sequence Analysis, Transcription Factors, Vertebrates