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Novel Role of 3'UTR-Embedded Alu Elements as Facilitators of Processed Pseudogene Genesis and Host Gene Capture by Viral Genomes.


ABSTRACT: Since the discovery of the high abundance of Alu elements in the human genome, the interest for the functional significance of these retrotransposons has been increasing. Primate Alu and rodent Alu-like elements are retrotransposed by a mechanism driven by the LINE1 (L1) encoded proteins, the same machinery that generates the L1 repeats, the processed pseudogenes (PPs), and other retroelements. Apart from free Alu RNAs, Alus are also transcribed and retrotranscribed as part of cellular gene transcripts, generally embedded inside 3' untranslated regions (UTRs). Despite different proposed hypotheses, the functional implication of the presence of Alus inside 3'UTRs remains elusive. In this study we hypothesized that Alu elements in 3'UTRs could be involved in the genesis of PPs. By analyzing human genome data we discovered that the existence of 3'UTR-embedded Alu elements is overrepresented in genes source of PPs. In contrast, the presence of other retrotransposable elements in 3'UTRs does not show this PP linked overrepresentation. This research was extended to mouse and rat genomes and the results accordingly reveal overrepresentation of 3'UTR-embedded B1 (Alu-like) elements in PP parent genes. Interestingly, we also demonstrated that the overrepresentation of 3'UTR-embedded Alus is particularly significant in PP parent genes with low germline gene expression level. Finally, we provide data that support the hypothesis that the L1 machinery is also the system that herpesviruses, and possibly other large DNA viruses, use to capture host genes expressed in germline or somatic cells. Altogether our results suggest a novel role for Alu or Alu-like elements inside 3'UTRs as facilitators of the genesis of PPs, particularly in lowly expressed genes. Moreover, we propose that this L1-driven mechanism, aided by the presence of 3'UTR-embedded Alus, may also be exploited by DNA viruses to incorporate host genes to their viral genomes.

PROVIDER: S-EPMC5199112 | BioStudies |

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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