[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The embedding of one gene in another as a nested gene pair is a unique phenomenon of gene clustering in the metazoan genome. A gene-centric paralogous genomic sequence comparison strategy was used in this study to align these paralogous nested pairs, Mab21l2-Lrba and Mab21l1-Nbea, to identify the associated paralogous non-coding elements (pNEs) they shared. A majority of these pNEs in the Mab21l2-Lrba locus display tissue-specific enhancer activities recapitulating the expression profiles of Mab21l2 and Mab21l1. Since these enhancers are spread into the introns of Lrba, dissociation of the two genes will likely disrupt the function of at least one of them. Phylogenetic analysis of this complex locus in different species suggests that Mab21 was probably locked in the Lrba/Nbea intron in the ancestral metazoan species, in which the cis-elements uncovered in this study may act as a selective force to prevent the dissociation of this gene pair in vertebrates.