There are seven mammalian signal transducer and activator of transcription (Stat) proteins that act downstream of cytokine and growth factor receptors to mediate rapid changes in gene expression. The mammalian Stat5a and Stat5b genes show high sequence identity and lie adjacent in a head-to-head configuration next to the Stat3 gene, apparently the result of a relatively recent mammal-specific gene duplication event. We have identified and characterized two stat5 homologues that are expressed in zebrafish, named stat5.1 and stat5.2. The stat5.1 gene shows a high level of conservation with the single stat5 gene found in other teleosts and lies next to the stat3 gene, in the same relative orientation as the mammalian Stat5b gene. In contrast, the stat5.2 gene lies on a different chromosome to stat5.1 and stat3, and has diverged from the stat5 genes of other teleosts, with no apparent orthologue. Together, these data suggest that the ancestral Stat5 gene has undergone two independent gene duplication events to generate a stat5.2 paralogue in zebrafish and a Stat5a paralogue in mammals.
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