IL26 gene inactivation in Equidae



Interleukin-26 (IL26) is a member of the IL10 cytokine family. The IL26 gene is located between two other well-known cytokines genes of this family encoding interferon-gamma (IFNG) and IL22 in an evolutionary conserved gene cluster. In contrast to humans and most other mammals, mice lack a functional Il26 gene. We analyzed the genome sequences of other vertebrates for the presence or absence of functional IL26 orthologs and found that the IL26 gene has also become inactivated in several equid species. We detected a one-base pair frameshift deletion in exon 2 of the IL26 gene in the domestic horse (Equus caballus), Przewalski horse (Equus przewalskii) and donkey (Equus asinus). The remnant IL26 gene in the horse is still transcribed and gives rise to at least five alternative transcripts. None of these transcripts share a conserved open reading frame with the human IL26 gene. A comparative analysis across diverse vertebrates revealed that the IL26 gene has also independently been inactivated in a few other mammals, including the African elephant and the European hedgehog. The IL26 gene thus appears to be highly variable, and the conserved open reading frame has been lost several times during mammalian evolution.