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Hair, Skin-Related Genomic Regions Evolving at Different Rates in Mammals With Little Hair

Researchers from the University of Utah applied an evolutionary-rates-based method dubbed RERconverge to search for genomic regions that are evolving at different rates among mammals that have little hair, like whales, naked mole rats, or humans, as compared to mammals with more hair. As they report in eLife, the researchers analyzed 62 different mammalian species to home in on genes like the fibroblast growth factor gene FGF11. In hairless mammals, FGF11 has been evolving faster, likely due to a relaxing of evolutionary constraint, the researchers add. Genes under accelerated evolution additionally included known hair- and skin-related genes like KRT2, KRT35, PKP1, and PTPRM, and there was also accelerated evolution at non-coding regions, which was particularly enriched near hair-related genes and microRNAs like mir205, ELF3, and FOXC1. "This study has revealed a slew of fresh candidate genes, noncoding regions, and microRNAs putatively associated with hair growth," the researchers write, adding that the analysis not only contributes to "understanding hair growth, but also [to] understanding the evolution of hair across all mammals."