Analysis of the cytochrome c oxidase subunit II (COX2) gene in giant panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca.
The giant panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca (Ursidae), has a unique bamboo-based diet; however, this low-energy intake has been sufficient to maintain the metabolic processes of this species since the fourth ice age. As mitochondria are the main sites for energy metabolism in animals, the protein-coding genes involved in mitochondrial respiratory chains, particularly cytochrome c oxidase subunit II (COX2), which is the rate-limiting enzyme in electron transfer, could play an important role in giant panda metabolism. Therefore, the present study aimed to isolate, sequence, and analyze the COX2 DNA from individuals kept at the Giant Panda Protection and Research Center, China, and compare these sequences with those of the other Ursidae family members. Multiple sequence alignment showed that the COX2 gene had three point mutations that defined three haplotypes, with 60% of the sequences corresponding to haplotype I. The neutrality tests revealed that the COX2 gene was conserved throughout evolution, and the maximum likelihood phylogenetic analysis, using homologous sequences from other Ursidae species, showed clustering of the COX2 sequences of giant pandas, suggesting that this gene evolved differently in them.