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J Mol Biol. 1984 Oct 25;179(2):157-69.

Genes and pseudogenes for human U2 RNA. Implications for the mechanism of pseudogene formation.


Three loci, designated U2/4, U2/6 and U2/7, which contain sequences related to human U2 RNA, have been studied. The U2/6 locus contains a tandem array of bona fide U2 genes. U2/4 and U2/7, in contrast, contain pseudogenes of whose sequences deviate significantly from that of mammalian U2 RNA. The two pseudogenes appear to have been created by different mechanisms. The sequences that flank the pseudogene in the U2/4 locus lack homology to the corresponding sequences in functional human U2 genes, except for 10 base-pairs immediately following the 3' end. The conserved 3'-flanking segment is homologous to those nucleotides that are present in a U2 RNA precursor. No direct repeats flank the pseudogene in the U2/4 locus. The observations thus suggest that a complementary DNA copy of the U2 RNA precursor was inserted into a blunt-ended chromosomal break to generate the U2/4 locus. The U2/7 locus, in contrast, revealed flanking sequence homology when compared to functional U2 genes, both on the 5' and 3' sides of the pseudogene. The homology was interrupted on both sides by repetitive sequences belonging to the Alu family. On the 5' side the homology continues beyond the Alu repeats whereas on the 3' side it ends precisely at the Alu repeat. This Alu repeat is inserted in a region where a homocopolymeric region of alternating C and T residues is located in functional U2 loci. The observed organization of the U2/7 locus suggests that a previously functional U2 locus was invaded by Alu repeats and subsequently accumulated base substitutions to become a pseudogene.

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