Three subfamilies of genes are acknowledged within the zona pellucida (ZP) gene family. At present, these subfamilies each have two names that are used interchangeably: ZPA or ZP2, ZPB or ZP1, and ZPC or ZP3. The ZPA genes encode the longest protein sequences and the ZPC genes the shortest. Recently, several sequences, which have no clear relationship to the three subfamilies, have been identified. These sequences include two paralogous ZP genes from Xenopus laevis and a single gene from the fish Oryzias latipes. We have conducted extensive phylogenetic analyses of the known ZP genes. As well as establishing the evolutionary relationships among these genes, the analyses make it clear that the dual nomenclature system is no longer feasible, because major paralogous groups are present in the ZPB (ZP1) family of genes of amniotes. We propose a unified system of nomenclature for the ZP gene family that removes the existing ambiguities.
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