Evolutionary conservation of the circadian gene timeout in Metazoa

Timeless (Tim) is considered to function as an essential circadian clock gene in Drosophila. Putative homologues of the Drosophila timeless gene have been identified in both mice and humans. While Drosophila contains two paralogs, timeless and timeout, acting in clock/light entrainment and chromosome integrity/photoreception, respectively, mammals contain only one Tim homolog. In this paper, we study the phylogeny of the timeless/timeout family in 48 species [including 1 protozoan (Guillardia theta), 1 nematode (Caenorhabditis elegans), 8 arthropods and 38 chordates], for which whole genome data are available by using MEGA (Molecular Evolutionary Genetics Analysis). Phylogenetic Analysis by Maximum Likelihood (PAML) was used to analyze the selective pressure acting on metazoan timeless/timeout genes. Our phylogeny clearly separates insect timeless and timeout lineages and shows that non-insect animal Tim genes are homologs of insect timeout. In this study, we explored the relatively rapidly evolving timeless lineage that was apparently lost from most deuterostomes, including chordates, and from Caenorhabditis elegans. In contrast, we found that the timeout protein, often confusingly called “timeless” in the vertebrate literature, is present throughout the available animal genomes. Selection results showed that timeout is under weaker negative selection than timeless. Finally, our phylogeny of timeless/timeout showed an evolutionary conservation of the circadian clock gene timeout in Metazoa. This conservation is in line with its multifunctionality, being essential for embryonic development and maintenance of chromosome integrity, among others.