The evolution of bat nucleic acid-sensing Toll-like receptors

Marina Escalera-zamudio, M. Lisandra Zepeda-mendoza, Elizabeth Loza-rubio, Edith Rojas-anaya, Maria L. Méndez-ojeda, Carlos F. Arias, Alex D. Greenwood*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


We characterized the nucleic acid-sensing Toll-like receptors (TLR) of a New World bat species, the common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus), and through a comparative molecular evolutionary approach searched for general adaptation patterns among the nucleic acid-sensing TLRs of eight different bats species belonging to three families (Pteropodidae, Vespertilionidae and Phyllostomidae). We found that the bat TLRs are evolving slowly and mostly under purifying selection and that the divergence pattern of such receptors is overall congruent with the species tree, consistent with the evolution of many other mammalian nuclear genes. However, the chiropteran TLRs exhibited unique mutations fixed in ligand-binding sites, some of which involved nonconservative amino acid changes and/or targets of positive selection. Such changes could potentially modify protein function and ligand-binding properties, as some changes were predicted to alter nucleic acid binding motifs in TLR 9. Moreover, evidence for episodic diversifying selection acting specifically upon the bat lineage and sublineages was detected. Thus, the long-term adaptation of chiropterans to a wide variety of environments and ecological niches with different pathogen profiles is likely to have shaped the evolution of the bat TLRs in an order-specific manner. The observed evolutionary patterns provide evidence for potential functional differences between bat and other mammalian TLRs in terms of resistance to specific pathogens or recognition of nucleic acids in general.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5899-5909
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number23
Early online date26 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015


  • bats
  • molecular evolution
  • nucleic acid-sensing Toll-like receptors
  • selection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


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