Proteins involved in sexual reproduction are known to evolve rapidly, often as the result of positive Darwinian selection, although the selective forces driving such adaptive changes are poorly understood. A process of coevolution between proteins in male and female gametes may promote rapid divergence of fertilization proteins. In the mouse, only two proteins have been shown so far to be essential for sperm-egg fusion, IZUMO1 in the sperm cell and CD9 in the egg. The role of these proteins has not been fully elucidated, and it has been suggested that they may act as fusogens, interacting in trans with proteins on the other cell, or regulators of fusogens through cis interactions. Here we analyze the evolution of IZUMO1 and CD9 in a group of rodent species. To assess possible protein interactions between IZUMO1 and CD9, we examined potential coevolution based on analyses of correlated evolutionary rates. We found evidence that both proteins evolve adaptively, with a more intense signal of positive selection in IZUMO1. In addition, our findings suggest that these proteins may have some form of interaction, although they have not been regarded as fusogens interacting directly with each other. The adaptive divergence of IZUMO1 and CD9 could influence reproductive compatibility, and, thus, these proteins may participate in the establishment of specific sperm-egg recognition systems. Further studies are required to uncover the role of IZUMO1 and CD9 during gamete fusion in order to understand the molecular basis of their coevolution, as other selective forces could also lead to general signatures of coevolution.
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Vol. 90 • No. 5