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Genetics. Jun 1999; 152(2): 743–754.
PMCID: PMC1460620

Origin of gene overlap: the case of TCP1 and ACAT2.


The human acetyl-CoA acetyltransferase 2 gene, ACAT2, codes for a thiolase, an enzyme involved in lipid metabolism. The human T-complex protein 1 gene, TCP1, encodes a molecular chaperone of the chaperonin family. The two genes overlap by their 3'-untranslated regions, their coding sequences being located on opposite DNA strands in a tail-to-tail orientation. To find out how the overlap might have arisen in evolution, the homologous genes of the zebrafish, the African toad, caiman, platypus, opossum, and wallaby were identified. In each species, standard or long polymerase chain reactions were used to determine whether the ACAT2 and TCP1 homologs are closely linked and, if so, whether they overlap. The results reveal that the overlap apparently arose during the transition from therapsid reptiles to mammals and has been retained for >200 million years. Part of the overlapping untranslated region shows remarkable sequence conservation. The overlap presumably arose during the chromosomal rearrangement that brought the two unrelated and previously separated genes together. One or both of the transposed genes found by chance signals that are necessary for the processing of their transcripts to be present on the noncoding strand of the partner gene.

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Selected References

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