Coevolution of Siglec-11 and Siglec-16 via gene conversion in primates

Toshiyuki Hayakawa, Zahra Khedri, Flavio Schwarz, Corinna Landig, Suh Yuen Liang, Hai Yu, Xi Chen, Naoko T. Fujito, Yoko Satta, Ajit Varki, Takashi Angata

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Siglecs-11 and -16 are members of the sialic acid recognizing Ig-like lectin family, and expressed in same cells. Siglec-11 functions as an inhibitory receptor, whereas Siglec-16 exhibits activating properties. In humans, SIGLEC11 and SIGLEC16 gene sequences are extremely similar in the region encoding the extracellular domain due to gene conversions. Human SIGLEC11 was converted by the nonfunctional SIGLEC16P allele, and the converted SIGLEC11 allele became fixed in humans, possibly because it provides novel neuroprotective functions in brain microglia. However, the detailed evolutionary history of SIGLEC11 and SIGLEC16 in other primates remains unclear. Results: We analyzed SIGLEC11 and SIGLEC16 gene sequences of multiple primate species, and examined glycan binding profiles of these Siglecs. The phylogenetic tree demonstrated that gene conversions between SIGLEC11 and SIGLEC16 occurred in the region including the exon encoding the sialic acid binding domain in every primate examined. Functional assays showed that glycan binding preference is similar between Siglec-11 and Siglec-16 in all analyzed hominid species. Taken together with the fact that Siglec-11 and Siglec-16 are expressed in the same cells, Siglec-11 and Siglec-16 are regarded as paired receptors that have maintained similar ligand binding preferences via gene conversions. Relaxed functional constraints were detected on the SIGLEC11 and SIGLEC16 exons that underwent gene conversions, possibly contributing to the evolutionary acceptance of repeated gene conversions. The frequency of nonfunctional SIGLEC16P alleles is much higher than that of SIGLEC16 alleles in every human population. Conclusions: Our findings indicate that Siglec-11 and Siglec-16 have been maintained as paired receptors by repeated gene conversions under relaxed functional constraints in the primate lineage. The high prevalence of the nonfunctional SIGLEC16P allele and the fixation of the converted SIGLEC11 imply that the loss of Siglec-16 and the gain of Siglec-11 in microglia might have been favored during the evolution of human lineage.

Original languageEnglish
Article number228
JournalBMC Evolutionary Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Nov 23 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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