Since the first complete set of Platyhelminth nuclear receptors (NRs) from Schistosoma mansoni were identified a decade ago, more flatworm genome data is available to identify their NR complement and to analyze the evolutionary relationship of Platyhelminth NRs. NRs are important transcriptional modulators that regulate development, differentiation and reproduction of animals. In this study, NRs are identified in genome databases of thirty-three species including in all Platyhelminth classes (Rhabditophora, Monogenea, Cestoda and Trematoda). Phylogenetic analysis shows that NRs in Platyhelminths follow two different evolutionary lineages: 1) NRs in a free-living freshwater flatworm (Schmidtea mediterranea) and all parasitic flatworms share the same evolutionary lineage with extensive gene loss. 2) NRs in a free-living intertidal zone flatworm (Macrostomum lignano) follow a different evolutionary lineage with a feature of multiple gene duplication and gene divergence. The DNA binding domain (DBD) is the most conserved region in NRs which contains two C4-type zinc finger motifs. A novel zinc finger motif is identified in parasitic flatworm NRs: the second zinc finger of parasitic Platyhelminth HR96b possesses a CHC2 motif which is not found in NRs of all other animals studied to date. In this study, novel NRs (members of NR subfamily 3 and 6) are identified in flatworms, this result demonstrates that members of all six classical NR subfamilies are present in the Platyhelminth phylum. NR gene duplication, loss and divergence in Platyhelminths are analyzed along with the evolutionary relationship of Platyhelminth NRs.
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