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J Mol Biol. 2005 May 27;349(1):27-45. Epub 2005 Apr 2.

Integrated pseudogene annotation for human chromosome 22: evidence for transcription.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University, 266 Whitney Avenue, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


Pseudogenes are inheritable genetic elements formally defined by two properties: their similarity to functioning genes and their presumed lack of activity. However, their precise characterization, particularly with respect to the latter quality, has proven elusive. An opportunity to explore this issue arises from the recent emergence of tiling-microarray data showing that intergenic regions (containing pseudogenes) are transcribed to a great degree. Here we focus on the transcriptional activity of pseudogenes on human chromosome 22. First, we integrated several sets of annotation to define a unified list of 525 pseudogenes on the chromosome. To characterize these further, we developed a comprehensive list of genomic features based on conservation in related organisms, expression evidence, and the presence of upstream regulatory sites. Of the 525 unified pseudogenes we could confidently classify 154 as processed and 49 as duplicated. Using data from tiling microarrays, especially from recent high-resolution oligonucleotide arrays, we found some evidence that up to a fifth of the 525 pseudogenes are potentially transcribed. Expressed sequence tags (EST) comparison further validated a number of these, and overall we found 17 pseudogenes with strong support for transcription. In particular, one of the pseudogenes with both EST and microarray evidence for transcription turned out to be a duplicated pseudogene in the cat eye syndrome critical region. Although we could not identify a meaningful number of transcription factor-binding sites (based on chromatin immunoprecipitation-chip data) near pseudogenes, we did find that approximately 12% of the pseudogenes had upstream CpG islands. Finally, analysis of corresponding syntenic regions in the mouse, rat and chimp genomes indicates, as previously suggested, that pseudogenes are less conserved than genes, but more preserved than the intergenic background (all notation is available from http://www.pseudogene.org).

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