Rapidly Evolving Genes in Human. I. The Glycophorins and Their Possible Role in Evading Malaria Parasites

Hurng Yi Wang, Hua Tang, C. K.James Shen, Chung I. Wu

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73 Citations (Scopus)


In an attempt to identify all fast-evolving genes between human and other primates, we found three glycophorins, GPA, GPB, and GPE, to have the highest rate of nonsynonymous substitutions among the 280 genes surveyed. The K a/Ks ratios are generally greater than 3 for GPA, GPB, and GPE in human, chimpanzee, and gorilla, indicating positive selection. The uniformly high substitution rate across loci can be explained by the frequent sequence exchanges among genes. GPA is the receptor for the binding ligand EBA-175 of the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. The levels of nonsynonymous divergence and polymorphism of EBA-175 are also the highest in the genome of P. falciparum. We hypothesize that GPA has been evolving rapidly to evade malaria parasites. Both the high rate of nonsynonymous substitutions and the frequent interlocus conversions may be means of evasion. The support for the evasion hypothesis is still indirect, but, unlike other hypotheses, it can be tested specifically and systematically.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1795-1804
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Gene conversion
  • Glycophorin
  • Malaria
  • Positive selection
  • Rapid evolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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