MRNA retrotransposition coupled with 5′ inversion as a possible source of new genes

Kenji K. Kojima, Norihiro Okada

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9 Citations (Scopus)


Human long interspersed nuclear element-1 (L1) occupies one-sixth of our genome and has contributed to genome evolution in various ways. Approximately 10% of human L1 copies are composed of two L1 segments; the 5′ segment and 3′ segment are in head-to-head (i.e., 5′-inverted) orientation. Besides mediating their own retrotransposition, L1 has the ability to mobilize mRNA "in trans," and the number of retrotransposed mRNA sequences (retrocopies) is estimated to be >6,000. In this study, we identified 48 human-specific retrocopies and 95 chimpanzee-specific retrocopies by comparing the human and chimpanzee genomes. Among these retrocopies, 12 were 5′-inverted. The characteristics of these 5′-inverted retrocopies were similar to those of 5′-inverted L1 copies, indicating that the 5′ inversion is generated by the same mechanism. With these findings, we examined the possibility that 5′ inversion of the retrocopy generates a new gene that codes for a peptide with a different N terminus. We identified several potential 5′-inverted retrogenes, including those of thymopoietin beta (TMPO) and eukaryotic translation initiation factor 3 subunit 5 (EIF3F). The most interesting candidate was the 5′-inverted retrocopy of small nuclear ribonucleoprotein polypeptide N (SNRPN). This retrocopy was transcribed in the reverse orientation in several organs, had multiple transcript variants, and encoded a protein containing a peptide fragment derived from the N-terminal portion of SNRPN. Our results suggest that mRNA retrotransposition coupled with 5′ inversion may be a mechanism to generate new genes distinct from parental genes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1405-1420
Number of pages16
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Jun

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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