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PLoS One. 2009 Jun 2;4(6):e5761. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005761.

A novel protein isoform of the multicopy human NAIP gene derives from intragenic Alu SINE promoters.

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Terry Fox Laboratory, BC Cancer Agency, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.


The human neuronal apoptosis inhibitory protein (NAIP) gene is no longer principally considered a member of the Inhibitor of Apoptosis Protein (IAP) family, as its domain structure and functions in innate immunity also warrant inclusion in the Nod-Like Receptor (NLR) superfamily. NAIP is located in a region of copy number variation, with one full length and four partly deleted copies in the reference human genome. We demonstrate that several of the NAIP paralogues are expressed, and that novel transcripts arise from both internal and upstream transcription start sites. Remarkably, two internal start sites initiate within Alu short interspersed element (SINE) retrotransposons, and a third novel transcription start site exists within the final intron of the GUSBP1 gene, upstream of only two NAIP copies. One Alu functions alone as a promoter in transient assays, while the other likely combines with upstream L1 sequences to form a composite promoter. The novel transcripts encode shortened open reading frames and we show that corresponding proteins are translated in a number of cell lines and primary tissues, in some cases above the level of full length NAIP. Interestingly, some NAIP isoforms lack their caspase-sequestering motifs, suggesting that they have novel functions. Moreover, given that human and mouse NAIP have previously been shown to employ endogenous retroviral long terminal repeats as promoters, exaptation of Alu repeats as additional promoters provides a fascinating illustration of regulatory innovations adopted by a single gene.

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