Author(s): Ben F Koop, Michael M Miyamoto, Jennifer E Embury, Morris Goodman, John Czelusniak
We have mapped and sequenced the epsilon globin gene and seven surrounding Alu repeat sequences in the orangutan beta globin gene cluster and have compared these and other orangutan sequences to orthologously related human sequences. Noncoding flanking and intron sequences, synonymous sites of alpha, gamma, and epsilon globin coding regions, and Alu sequences in human and orangutan diverge by 3.2%, 2.7%, and 3.7%, respectively. These values compare to 3.6% from DNA hybridizations and 3.4% from the psi eta globin gene region. If as suggested by fossil evidence and "molecular clock" calculations, human and orangutan lineages diverged about 10-15 MYA, the rate of noncoding DNA evolution in the two species is 1.0-1.5 X 10(-9) substitutions per site per year. We found no evidence for either the addition or deletion of Alu sequences from the beta globin gene cluster nor is there any evidence for recent concerted evolution among the Alu sequences examined. Both phylogenetic and phenetic distance analyses suggest that Alu sequences within the alpha and beta globin gene clusters arose close to the time of simian and prosimian primate divergence (about 50-60 MYA). We conclude that Alu sequences have been evolving at the rate typical of noncoding DNA for the majority of primate history.