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Keywords:

  • the macaques;
  • the melanocortin 1 receptor gene;
  • coat color;
  • evolution

Abstract

Melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R), a G-coupled seven-transmembrane receptor protein, plays a key role in the regulation of melanin synthesis in mammals. Sequence variation of the MC1R gene (MC1R) has been associated with pigmentation phenotypes in humans and in several animal species. The macaques (genus Macaca) are known to show a marked inter-specific variation in coat color although the causative genetic variation remains unclear. We investigated nucleotide sequences of the MC1R in 67 individuals of 18 macaque species with different coat color phenotypes including black and agouti. Twenty-eight amino acid replacements were identified in the macaques, but none of these amino acid replacements could explain the black coat color of Macaca silenus and the Sulawesi macaque species. Our molecular evolutionary analysis has revealed that nonsynonymous substitution/synonymous substitution (dN/dS) ratio of the MC1R has not been uniform in the macaque groups and, moreover, their coat color and dN/dS ratio were not related. These results suggest that the MC1R is unlikely to be responsible for the coat color variation of the macaques and functions of MC1R other than pigmentation might be associated with the different selective pressures on the MC1R in macaques. Am. J. Primatol. 70:778–785, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.