Gene duplication and loss are powerful drivers of evolutionary change. The role of loss in phenotypic diversification is notably illustrated by the variable enzymatic repertoire involved in vertebrate protein digestion. Among these we find the pepsin family of aspartic proteinases, including chymosin (Cmy). Previous studies demonstrated that Cmy, a neo-natal digestive pepsin, is inactivated in some primates, including humans. This pseudogenization event was hypothesized to result from the acquisition of maternal immune immunoglobulin G (IgG) transfer. By investigating 94 mammalian subgenomes we reveal an unprecedented level of Cmy erosion in placental mammals, with numerous independent events of gene loss taking place in Primates, Dermoptera, Rodentia, Cetacea and Perissodactyla. Our findings strongly suggest that the recurrent inactivation of Cmy correlates with the evolution of the passive transfer of IgG and uncovers a noteworthy case of evolutionary cross-talk between the digestive and the immune system, modulated by gene loss.
Lopes-Marques, M., Ruivo, R., Fonseca, E., Mendes Teixeira, A. A., & Castro, L. F. C. (2017). Unusual loss of chymosin in mammalian lineages parallels neo-natal immune transfer strategies. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 116, 78-86. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ympev.2017.08.014