Molecular Evolution of Genes Associated with Preeclampsia: Genetic Conflict, Antagonistic Coevolution and Signals of Selection

Author(s): Alistair Arthur


Parent-offspring conflict theory predicts continuing conflict between maternal and fetal interests during pregnancy. This is thought to contribute to risks of diseases like hypertension and preeclampsia during pregnancy. Genes expressed in the maternal and fetal genomes are predicted to have conflicting effects on various aspects of maternal physiology, including blood pressure. The genes are predicted to undergo continuous antagonistic coevolution, which should leave signals of positive selection in the short and long term. We tested for such signals in the FLT1 gene (previously argued to be a locus involved maternal-fetal conflict), and in several other suites of genes found to be significantly associated with preeclampsia in large-scale GWAS analyses. The FLT1 gene showed strong signals of positive selection at multiple levels of analysis. The suites of genes did not show an overall enhanced probability of positive selection (relative to a control set of genes), but a number of genes did show strong positive selection and may be good candidates for further analyses of maternal-fetal conflict.

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