Evolutionary origin and functions of retrogene introns.
ABSTRACT Retroposed genes (retrogenes) originate via the reverse transcription of mature messenger RNAs from parental source genes and are therefore usually devoid of introns. Here, we characterize a particular set of mammalian retrogenes that acquired introns upon their emergence and thus represent rare cases of intron gain in mammals. We find that although a few retrogenes evolved introns in their coding or 3' untranslated regions (untranslated region, UTR), most introns originated together with untranslated exons in the 5' flanking regions of the retrogene insertion site. They emerged either de novo or through fusions with 5' UTR exons of host genes into which the retrogenes inserted. Generally, retrogenes with introns display high transcription levels and show broader spatial expression patterns than other retrogenes. Our experimental expression analyses of individual intron-containing retrogenes show that 5' UTR introns may indeed promote higher expression levels, at least in part through encoded regulatory elements. By contrast, 3' UTR introns may lead to downregulation of expression levels via nonsense-mediated decay mechanisms. Notably, the majority of retrogenes with introns in their 5' flanks depend on distant, sometimes bidirectional CpG dinucleotide-enriched promoters for their expression that may be recruited from other genes in the genomic vicinity. We thus propose a scenario where the acquisition of new 5' exon-intron structures was directly linked to the recruitment of distant promoters by these retrogenes, a process potentially facilitated by the presence of proto-splice sites in the genomic vicinity of retrogene insertion sites. Thus, the primary role and selective benefit of new 5' introns (and UTR exons) was probably initially to span the often substantial distances to potent CpG promoters driving retrogene transcription. Later in evolution, these introns then obtained additional regulatory roles in fine tuning retrogene expression levels. Our study provides novel insights regarding mechanisms underlying the origin of new introns, the evolutionary relevance of intron gain, and the origin of new gene promoters.
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ABSTRACT: Retrogenes are duplicated genes generated via retro-position, which were conventionally believed to contain no introns. However, emerging data showed that a significant number of retrogenes do have introns. Thus, these genes represent an attractive system to study how new genes evolve exon–intron structure. Comparison between par-ental genes and retrogenes revealed that retrogenes mainly evolve chimeric structures by fusing with local host genes or recruiting pre-existing intergenic sequences. Additionally, retrogenes could gain introns by inheriting introns of parental genes or by transforming parental exonic sequences. The functional necessity on intron gain in retrogenes remains largely elusive although limited data suggest that newborn introns play regulatory roles, enable exon shuffling and alternative splicing. Accumulation of population genomic data may help to understand which evolutionary force shapes the fixation of introns in both retrogenes and de novo originated genes given the same intron birth process acts on both type of new genes.eLS. 08/2014;
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ABSTRACT: Intronless genes, as a characteristic feature of prokaryotes, are an important resource for the study of the evolution of gene architecture in eukaryotes. In the study, 14,623 (36.87%) intronless genes in maize were identified and the percentage is greater than that of other monocots and algae. The number of maize intronless genes on each chromosome has a significant linear correlation with the number of total genes on the chromosome and the length of the chromosomes. Intronless genes in maize play important roles in translation and energy metabolism. Evolutionary analysis revealed that 2,601 intronless genes conserved among the three domains of life and 2,323 intronless genes that had no homology with genes of other species. These two sets of intronless genes were distinct in genetic features, physical locations and function. These results provided a useful source to understand the evolutionary patterns of related genes and genomes and some intronless genes are good candidates for subsequent functional analyses specifically.Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 05/2014; · 2.41 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Analysis of the human genome suggests novel genes created by retroposition may play an important role in primate evolution. However, data from non-human primates is still scarce. A comprehensive comparison was thus performed among four primate genomes (human, chimpanzee, orangutan, and macaque), which detects elevated rates of retroposition in both the common ancestor of hominoids and macaques. Further analysis shows approximately 10% of intact retrocopies may be under positive selection and at least 4% of retrocopies become functional copies eventually. Moreover, human intact retrocopies were found enriched in transcription-related functions. Collectively, these findings emphasize the important contribution of retroposition to primate genome evolution.FEBS letters 09/2013; · 3.54 Impact Factor