Molecular Genetics and Genomics

, Volume 294, Issue 1, pp 121–133 | Cite as

Birth and death of Mx genes and the presence/absence of genes regulating Mx transcription are correlated with the diversity of anti-pathogenicity in vertebrate species

  • Furong Qi
  • Airong Yang
  • Sadaf Ambreen
  • Xue Bai
  • Yali HouEmail author
  • Xuemei LuEmail author
Original Article


Gene duplication and amino acid substitution are two types of genetic innovations of antiviral genes in inhibiting the emerging pathogens in different species. Mx proteins are well known for inhibiting negative-stranded RNA viruses and have evolved a number of paralogs or orthologs, showing distinct antiviral activities or capacities within or between species. The presence of upstream genes in the signaling pathway(s) that activates Mx genes (upstream regulators of Mx gene) also exhibits variety across species. The association between the evolution of Mx gene and their upstream regulators and the various antiviral capacities in host species has not been investigated. Herein, we traced the evolution of Mx gene and profiled the gene birth/death events on each branch of the 64 chordate species. We provided additional support that the diversity in gene member and amino acid changes in the different clades is correlated to their various antiviral activities of the species. We identified amino acid substitutions that may lead to the functional divergence between Mx paralogs in rodents. Although the copy number of the Mx gene is conserved in birds, infection by influenza A virus (IAV) results in diverse morbidity rates in different avian species. The evidences of gene interaction in the IAV-induced pathway and the genome analysis performed in this study indicated that the existence of the upstream regulators of Mx gene exhibits variation among different species, particularly in birds. The variation is related to the differences in the expression of Mx genes, resulting in the antiviral specificity and morbidity rates in avian species. We conclude that the antiviral capacity in host species is associated with the variations in the gene number of the Mx gene family and the existence of upstream regulators of Mx gene as well.


Influenza A virus Mx Regulatory genes Gene occurrence Antiviral activity 


Author contributions

XL, YH and FQ conceived and designed the experiments, FQ, AY and XB performed the data collection, FQ performed the data analysis, FQ, YH and XL wrote and revised the manuscript. SA revised the manuscript.


This study was funded by the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant number XDB13000000); the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant number 91531305, 31771416 and 31301963); Youth Innovation Promotion Association, Chinese Academy of Sciences; and CAS-TWAS President’s Fellowship for International PhD Students.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Furong Qi declares that she has no conflict of interest. Airong Yang declares that she has no conflict of interest. Sadaf Ambreen declares that she has no conflict of interest. Xue Bai declares that she has no conflict of interest. Yali Hou declares that she has no conflict of interest. Xuemei Lu declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Genomics and Precision Medicine, Beijing Institute of GenomicsChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.CAS Center for Excellence in Animal Evolution and GeneticsChinese Academy of SciencesKunmingPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingPeople’s Republic of China

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