Variations in gene expression patterns represent a powerful source of evolutionary innovation. In a rodent living about 70 million years ago, a genomic accident led an immune formyl peptide receptor (FPR) gene to hijack a vomeronasal receptor regulatory sequence. This gene shuffling event forced an immune pathogen sensor to transition into an olfactory chemoreceptor, which thus moved from sensing the internal world to probing the outside world. We here discuss the evolution of the FPR gene family, the events that led to their neofunctionalization in the vomeronasal organ and the functions of immune and vomeronasal FPRs.
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