Daily Archives: February 14, 2010

Recursive front-loading

Since prestin represents a splendid example of convergent evolution at the molecular level, which in turn, supports the position that the blind watchmaker can be guided, one has to wonder about the origin of prestin itself.

To these ends, I have run across the following paper:

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Jun 24;100(13):7690-5.

Expression of prestin-homologous solute carrier (SLC26) in auditory organs of nonmammalian vertebrates and insects.

Weber T, Gopfert MC, Winter H, Zimmermann U, Kohler H, Meier A, Hendrich O, Rohbock K, Robert D, Knipper M.

Prestin, the fifth member of the anion transporter family SLC26, is the outer hair cell molecular motor thought to be responsible for active mechanical amplification in the mammalian cochlea. Active amplification is present in a variety of other auditory systems, yet the prevailing view is that prestin is a motor molecule unique to mammalian ears. Here we identify prestin-related SLC26 proteins that are expressed in the auditory organs of nonmammalian vertebrates and insects. Sequence comparisons revealed the presence of SLC26 proteins in fish (Danio, GenBank accession no. AY278118, and Anguilla, GenBank accession no. BAC16761), mosquitoes (Anopheles, GenBank accession nos. EAA07232 and EAA07052), and flies (Drosophila, GenBank accession no. AAF49285). The fly and zebrafish homologues were cloned and, by using in situ hybridization, shown to be expressed in the auditory organs. In mosquitoes, in turn, the expression of prestin homologues was demonstrated for the auditory organ by using highly specific riboprobes against rat prestin. We conclude that prestin-related SLC26 proteins are widespread, possibly ancestral, constituents of auditory organs and are likely to serve salient roles in mammals and across taxa.

Fascinating.  So homologs of prestin have not only been identified in both other vertebrates and non-vertebrates, but are also expressed in their auditory organs.  Okay, so we can say that a prestin-like protein was already in place to carry out auditory function in the last common ancestor of mammals and insects.  That’s some pretty deep homology.  But does it go further?

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