Mar 10, 2016

Antimicrobial functions of lactoferrin promote genetic conflicts in ancient primates and modern humans

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Matthew F BarberNels C Elde


Lactoferrin is a multifunctional mammalian immunity protein that limits microbial growth through sequestration of nutrient iron. Additionally, lactoferrin possesses cationic protein domains that directly bind and inhibit diverse microbes. The implications for these dual functions on lactoferrin evolution and genetic conflicts with pathogens remain unclear. Here we show that lactoferrin has been subject to recurrent episodes of positive selection during primate divergence predominately at antimicrobial peptide surfaces consistent with long-term antagonism by pathogens. An abundant lactoferrin polymorphism in human populations and Neanderthals also exhibits signatures of positive selection across primates, linking ancient host-microbe conflicts to modern human genetic variation. Rapidly evolving sites in lactoferrin further correspond to molecular interfaces with pathogenic bacteria causing meningitis, pneumonia, and sepsis. Because microbes actively target lactoferrin to acquire iron, we propose that the emergence of antimicrobial activity provided a pivotal mechanism of adaptation sparking evolutionary conflicts via acquisition of new protein functions.

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Mentioned in this Paper

Gene Polymorphism
Pathogenic Organism
Human Genetics
Protein Function

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