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Missed, Not Missing: Phylogenomic Evidence for the Existence of Avian FoxP3

Denyer, M P; Pinheiro, D Y; Garden, O A; Shepherd, A J


M P Denyer

D Y Pinheiro

O A Garden

A J Shepherd


The Forkhead box transcription factor FoxP3 is pivotal to the development and function of regulatory T cells (Tregs), which make a major contribution to peripheral tolerance. FoxP3 is believed to perform a regulatory role in all the vertebrate species in which it has been detected. The prevailing view is that FoxP3 is absent in birds and that avian Tregs rely on alternative developmental and suppressive pathways. Prompted by the automated annotation of foxp3 in the ground tit (Parus humilis) genome, we have questioned this assumption. Our analysis of all available avian genomes has revealed that the foxp3 locus is missing, incomplete or of poor quality in the relevant genomic assemblies for nearly all avian species. Nevertheless, in two species, the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) and the saker falcon (F. cherrug), there is compelling evidence for the existence of exons showing synteny with foxp3 in the ground tit. A broader phylogenomic analysis has shown that FoxP3 sequences from these three species are similar to crocodilian sequences, the closest living relatives of birds. In both birds and crocodilians, we have also identified a highly proline-enriched region at the N terminus of FoxP3, a region previously identified only in mammals.


Denyer, M. P., Pinheiro, D. Y., Garden, O. A., & Shepherd, A. J. (in press). Missed, Not Missing: Phylogenomic Evidence for the Existence of Avian FoxP3. PLoS ONE, 11(3),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 21, 2016
Deposit Date Mar 11, 2016
Publicly Available Date Mar 11, 2016
Journal PLoS One
Publisher Public Library of Science
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 11
Issue 3
Public URL


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