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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Mar 4;100(5):2507-11. Epub 2003 Feb 25.

The Tre2 (USP6) oncogene is a hominoid-specific gene.

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  • 1Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, MA 02129, USA.


Gene duplication and domain accretion are thought to be the major mechanisms for the emergence of novel genes during evolution. Such events are thought to have occurred at early stages in the vertebrate lineage, but genomic sequencing has recently revealed extensive amplification events during the evolution of higher primates. We report here that the Tre2 (USP6) oncogene is derived from the chimeric fusion of two genes, USP32 (NY-REN-60), and TBC1D3. USP32 is an ancient, highly conserved gene, whereas TBC1D3 is derived from a recent segmental duplication, which is absent in most other mammals and shows rapid amplification and dispersal through the primate lineage. Remarkably, the chimeric gene Tre2 exists only in the hominoid lineage of primates. This hominoid-specific oncogene arose as recently as 21-33 million years ago, after proliferation of the TBC1D3 segmental duplication in the primate lineage. In contrast to the broad expression pattern of USP32 and TBC1D3, expression of Tre2 is testis-specific, a pattern proposed for novel genes implicated in the emergence of reproductive barriers. The sudden emergence of chimeric proteins, such as that encoded by Tre2, may have contributed to hominoid speciation.

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