High degree of conservation of the multigene tryptase locus over the past 150-200 million years of mammalian evolution.
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Activated mast cells release a number of potent inflammatory mediators including histamine, proteoglycans, cytokines, and serine proteases. The proteases constitute the majority of the mast cell granule proteins, and they belong to either the chymase or the tryptase family. In mammals, these enzymes are encoded by two different loci, the mast cell chymase and the multigene tryptase loci. In mice and humans, a relatively large number of tryptic enzymes are encoded from the latter locus. These enzymes can be grouped into two subfamilies, the group 1 tryptases, with primarily membrane-anchored enzymes, and the group 2 tryptases, consisting of the soluble mast cell tryptases. In order to study the appearance of these enzymes during vertebrate evolution, we have analyzed the dog, cattle, opossum, and platypus genomes and sought orthologues in the genomes of several bird, frog, and fish species as well. Our results show that the overall structure and the number of genes within this locus have been well conserved from marsupial to placental mammals. In addition, two relatively distantly related group 2 tryptase genes and several direct homologues of some of the group 1 genes are present in the genome of the platypus, a monotreme. However, no direct homologues of the individual genes of either group 1 or 2 enzymes were identified in bird, amphibian, or fish genomes. Our results indicate that the individual genes within the multigene tryptase locus, in their present form, are essentially mammal-specific.