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Genome Res. 2005 Mar;15(3):364-8. Epub 2005 Feb 14.

Naturally occurring antisense: transcriptional leakage or real overlap?

Author information

  • 1Compugen Ltd., Tel Aviv 69512 Israel. dvir@compugen.co.il

Abstract

Naturally occurring antisense transcription is associated with the regulation of gene expression through a variety of biological mechanisms. Several recent genome-wide studies reported the identification of potential antisense transcripts for thousands of mammalian genes, many of them resulting from alternatively polyadenylated transcripts or heterogeneous transcription start sites. However, it is not clear whether this transcriptional plasticity is intentional, leading to regulated overlap between the transcripts, or, alternatively, represents a "leakage" of the RNA transcription machinery. To address this question through an evolutionary approach, we compared the genomic organization of genes, with or without antisense, between human, mouse, and the pufferfish Fugu rubripes. Our hypothesis was that if two neighboring genes overlap and have a sense-antisense relationship, we would expect negative selection acting on the evolutionary separation between them. We found that antisense gene pairs are twice as likely to preserve their genomic organization throughout vertebrates' evolution compared to nonantisense pairs, implying an overlap existence in the ancestral genome. In addition, we show that increasing the genomic distance between pairs of genes having a sense-antisense relationship is selected against. These findings indicate that, at least in part, the abundance of antisense transcripts observed in expressed data represents real overlap rather than transcriptional leakage. Moreover, our results imply that natural antisense transcription has considerably affected vertebrate genome evolution.

PMID:
15710751
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC551562
Free PMC Article

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