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Nucleic Acids Res. 1993 May 25;21(10):2315-22.

Strong conservation of non-coding sequences during vertebrates evolution: potential involvement in post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression.

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  • 1Laboratoire de Biométrie, Génétique et Biologie des Populations, Université Claude Bernard, Lyon I, URA-CNRS 243, Villeurbanne, France.


Comparison of nucleotide sequences from different classes of vertebrates that diverged more than 300 million years ago, revealed the existence of highly conserved regions (HCRs) with more than 70% similarity over 100 to 1450 nt in non-coding parts of genes. Such a conservation is unexpected because it is much longer and stronger than what is necessary for specifying the binding of a regulatory protein. HCRs are relatively frequent, particularly in genes that are essential to cell life. In multigene families, conserved regions are specific of each isotype and are probably involved in the control of their specific pattern of expression. Studying HCRs distribution within genes showed that functional constraints are generally much stronger in 3'-non-coding regions than in promoters or introns. The 3'-HCRs are particularly A + T-rich and are always located in the transcribed untranslated regions of genes, which suggests that they are involved in post-transcriptional processes. However, current knowledge of mechanisms that regulate mRNA export, localisation, translation, or degradation is not sufficient to explain the strong functional constraints that we have characterised.

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