Evolutionary History of the Vertebrate Mitogen Activated Protein Kinases Family

2011-10-26T00:34:12Z (GMT) by Meng Li Jun Liu Chiyu Zhang


The mitogen activated protein kinases (MAPK) family pathway is implicated in diverse cellular processes and pathways essential to most organisms. Its evolution is conserved throughout the eukaryotic kingdoms. However, the detailed evolutionary history of the vertebrate MAPK family is largely unclear.

Methodology/Principal Findings

The MAPK family members were collected from literatures or by searching the genomes of several vertebrates and invertebrates with the known MAPK sequences as queries. We found that vertebrates had significantly more MAPK family members than invertebrates, and the vertebrate MAPK family originated from 3 progenitors, suggesting that a burst of gene duplication events had occurred after the divergence of vertebrates from invertebrates. Conservation of evolutionary synteny was observed in the vertebrate MAPK subfamilies 4, 6, 7, and 11 to 14. Based on synteny and phylogenetic relationships, MAPK12 appeared to have arisen from a tandem duplication of MAPK11 and the MAPK13-MAPK14 gene unit was from a segmental duplication of the MAPK11-MAPK12 gene unit. Adaptive evolution analyses reveal that purifying selection drove the evolution of MAPK family, implying strong functional constraints of MAPK genes. Intriguingly, however, intron losses were specifically observed in the MAPK4 and MAPK7 genes, but not in their flanking genes, during the evolution from teleosts to amphibians and mammals. The specific occurrence of intron losses in the MAPK4 and MAPK7 subfamilies might be associated with adaptive evolution of the vertebrates by enhancing the gene expression level of both MAPK genes.


These results provide valuable insight into the evolutionary history of the vertebrate MAPK family.