Using gene cloning and in silico cloning, we analyzed the structures of hatching enzyme gene orthologs of vertebrates. Comparison led to a hypothesis that hatching enzyme genes of Japanese eel conserve an ancestral structure of the genes of fishes, amphibians, birds and mammals. However, the exon-intron structure of the genes was different from species to species in Teleostei: Japanese eel hatching enzyme genes were 9-exon-8-intron genes, and zebrafish genes were 5-exon-4-intron genes. In the present study, we further analyzed the gene structures of fishes belonging to Acanthopterygii. In the species of Teleostei we examined, diversification of hatching enzyme gene into two paralogous genes for HCE (high choriolytic enzyme) and LCE (low choriolytic enzyme) was found only in the acanthopterygian fishes such as medaka Oryzias latipes, Fundulus heteroclitus, Takifugu rubripes and Tetraodon nigroviridis. In addition, the HCE gene had no intron, while the LCE gene consisted of 8 exons and 7 introns. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that HCE and LCE genes were paralogous to each other, and diverged during the evolutionary lineage to Acanthopterygii. Analysis of gene synteny and cluster structure showed that the syntenic genes around the HCE and LCE genes were highly conserved between medaka and Teraodon, but such synteny was not found around the zebrafish hatching enzyme genes. We hypothesize that the zebrafish hatching enzyme genes were translocated from chromosome to chromosome, and lost some of their introns during evolution.
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