Contrasted patterns of variation and evolutionary convergence at the antiviral OAS1 gene in old world primates

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The oligoadenylate synthetase 1 (OAS1) enzyme acts as an innate sensor of viral infection and plays a major role in the defense against a wide diversity of viruses. Polymorphisms at OAS1 have been shown to correlate with differential susceptibility to several infections of great public health significance, including hepatitis C virus, SARS coronavirus, and West Nile virus. Population genetics analyses in hominoids have revealed interesting evolutionary patterns. In Central African chimpanzee, OAS1 has evolved under long-term balancing selection, resulting in the persistence of polymorphisms since the origin of hominoids, whereas human populations have acquired and retained OAS1 alleles from Neanderthal and Denisovan origin. We decided to further investigate the evolution of OAS1 in primates by characterizing intra-specific variation in four species commonly used as models in infectious disease research: the rhesus macaque, the cynomolgus macaque, the olive baboon, and the Guinea baboon. In baboons, OAS1 harbors a very low level of variation. In contrast, OAS1 in macaques exhibits a level of polymorphism far greater than the genomic average, which is consistent with the action of balancing selection. The region of the enzyme that directly interacts with viral RNA, the RNA-binding domain, contains a number of polymorphisms likely to affect the RNA-binding affinity of OAS1. This strongly suggests that pathogen-driven balancing selection acting on the RNA-binding domain of OAS1 is maintaining variation at this locus. Interestingly, we found that a number of polymorphisms involved in RNA-binding were shared between macaques and chimpanzees. This represents an unusual case of convergent polymorphism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)487-499
Number of pages13
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 19 2015


  • Baboon
  • Balancing selection
  • Macaque
  • OAS1
  • Polymorphism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Genetics


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