Pseudo–Messenger RNA: Phantoms of the Transcriptome

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, US
PLoS Genetics (Impact Factor: 7.53). 05/2006; 2(4):e23. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.0020023
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The mammalian transcriptome harbours shadowy entities that resist classification and analysis. In analogy with pseudogenes, we define pseudo-messenger RNA to be RNA molecules that resemble protein-coding mRNA, but cannot encode full-length proteins owing to disruptions of the reading frame. Using a rigorous computational pipeline, which rules out sequencing errors, we identify 10,679 pseudo-messenger RNAs (approximately half of which are transposon-associated) among the 102,801 FANTOM3 mouse cDNAs: just over 10% of the FANTOM3 transcriptome. These comprise not only transcribed pseudogenes, but also disrupted splice variants of otherwise protein-coding genes. Some may encode truncated proteins, only a minority of which appear subject to nonsense-mediated decay. The presence of an excess of transcripts whose only disruptions are opal stop codons suggests that there are more selenoproteins than currently estimated. We also describe compensatory frameshifts, where a segment of the gene has changed frame but remains translatable. In summary, we survey a large class of non-standard but potentially functional transcripts that are likely to encode genetic information and effect biological processes in novel ways. Many of these transcripts do not correspond cleanly to any identifiable object in the genome, implying fundamental limits to the goal of annotating all functional elements at the genome sequence level.

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Available from: Piero Carninci, Sep 26, 2015
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    • "Importantly, this conservative approach also increases the probability of excluding non-protein-coding transcripts with low or limited expression. These may include processed pseudogenes or mRNA with disrupted reading frames that can contribute to detection of unannotated sequences [56,57]. We conclude from our microarray experiment that there remains in this EST dataset a large proportion of functional genes lacking sequence similarity to genes in annotated genome databases. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background Genomic resources within the phylum Arthropoda are largely limited to the true insects but are beginning to include unexplored subphyla, such as the Crustacea and Chelicerata. Investigations of these understudied taxa uncover high frequencies of orphan genes, which lack detectable sequence homology to genes in pre-existing databases. The ticks (Acari: Chelicerata) are one such understudied taxon for which genomic resources are urgently needed. Ticks are obligate blood-feeders that vector major diseases of humans, domesticated animals, and wildlife. In analyzing a transcriptome of the lone star tick Amblyomma americanum, one of the most abundant disease vectors in the United States, we find a high representation of unannotated sequences. We apply a general framework for quantifying the origin and true representation of unannotated sequences in a dataset and for evaluating the biological significance of orphan genes. Results Expressed sequence tags (ESTs) were derived from different life stages and populations of A. americanum and combined with ESTs available from GenBank to produce 14,310 ESTs, over twice the number previously available. The vast majority (71%) has no sequence homology to proteins archived in UniProtKB. We show that poor sequence or assembly quality is not a major contributor to this high representation by orphan genes. Moreover, most unannotated sequences are functional: a microarray experiment demonstrates that 59% of functional ESTs are unannotated. Lastly, we attempt to further annotate our EST dataset using genomic datasets from other members of the Acari, including Ixodes scapularis, four other tick species and the mite Tetranychus urticae. We find low homology with these species, consistent with significant divergence within this subclass. Conclusions We conclude that the abundance of orphan genes in A. americanum likely results from 1) taxonomic isolation stemming from divergence within the tick lineage and limited genomic resources for ticks and 2) lineage-specific genes needing functional genomic studies to evaluate their association with the unique biology of ticks. The EST sequences described here will contribute substantially to the development of tick genomics. Moreover, the framework provided for the evaluation of orphan genes can guide analyses of future transcriptome sequencing projects.
    BMC Genomics 02/2013; 14(1):135. DOI:10.1186/1471-2164-14-135 · 3.99 Impact Factor
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    • "Pseudogenes have long been considered as nonfunctional genomic sequences. However, evidence of transcription and conservation of some pseudogenes led to the speculation that they might be functional [14,15], and several estimates of the number of transcribed pseudogenes have been published in recent years [14,16,17]. More recently, studies have shown that, in some cases, expressed pseudogenes can perform crucial regulatory roles through their RNA products [18-21]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background Pseudogenes have long been considered as nonfunctional genomic sequences. However, recent evidence suggests that many of them might have some form of biological activity, and the possibility of functionality has increased interest in their accurate annotation and integration with functional genomics data. Results As part of the GENCODE annotation of the human genome, we present the first genome-wide pseudogene assignment for protein-coding genes, based on both large-scale manual annotation and in silico pipelines. A key aspect of this coupled approach is that it allows us to identify pseudogenes in an unbiased fashion as well as untangle complex events through manual evaluation. We integrate the pseudogene annotations with the extensive ENCODE functional genomics information. In particular, we determine the expression level, transcription-factor and RNA polymerase II binding, and chromatin marks associated with each pseudogene. Based on their distribution, we develop simple statistical models for each type of activity, which we validate with large-scale RT-PCR-Seq experiments. Finally, we compare our pseudogenes with conservation and variation data from primate alignments and the 1000 Genomes project, producing lists of pseudogenes potentially under selection. Conclusions At one extreme, some pseudogenes possess conventional characteristics of functionality; these may represent genes that have recently died. On the other hand, we find interesting patterns of partial activity, which may suggest that dead genes are being resurrected as functioning non-coding RNAs. The activity data of each pseudogene are stored in an associated resource, psiDR, which will be useful for the initial identification of potentially functional pseudogenes.
    Genome biology 09/2012; 13(9):R51. DOI:10.1186/gb-2012-13-9-r51 · 10.81 Impact Factor
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    • "A recent study in A. thaliana found that lowly expressed genes tend to have a higher K a and an excess of mutations in their promoters as compared with highly expressed genes, a finding that may also apply to the 2 · N genes (Yang et al., 2011). Other studies have also found a link between expression level, K a /K s , and pseudogenization (Frith et al., 2006; Zou et al., 2009). We then explored the relationship between breadth of expression and evolutionary rate. "
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    ABSTRACT: The Poaceae family, also known as the grasses, includes agronomically important cereal crops such as rice, maize, sorghum, and wheat. Previous comparative studies have shown that much of the gene content is shared among the grasses; however, functional conservation of orthologous genes has yet to be explored. To gain an understanding of the genome-wide patterns of evolution of gene expression across reproductive tissues, we employed a sequence-based approach to compare analogous transcriptomes in species representing three Poaceae subgroups including the Pooideae (Brachypodium distachyon), the Panicoideae (sorghum), and the Ehrhartoideae (rice). Our transcriptome analyses reveal that only a fraction of orthologous genes exhibit conserved expression patterns. A high proportion of conserved orthologs include genes that are upregulated in physiologically similar tissues such as leaves, anther, pistil, and embryo, while orthologs that are highly expressed in seeds show the most diverged expression patterns. More generally, we show that evolution of gene expression profiles and coding sequences in the grasses may be linked. Genes that are highly and broadly expressed tend to be conserved at the coding sequence level while genes with narrow expression patterns show accelerated rates of sequence evolution. We further show that orthologs in syntenic genomic blocks are more likely to share correlated expression patterns compared with non-syntenic orthologs. These findings are important for agricultural improvement because sequence information is transferred from model species, such as Brachypodium, rice, and sorghum to crop plants without sequenced genomes.
    The Plant Journal 03/2012; 71(3):492-502. DOI:10.1111/j.1365-313X.2012.05005.x · 5.97 Impact Factor
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