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Genome Biol Evol. 2013;5(11):2061-71. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evt155.

Alternative processing as evolutionary mechanism for the origin of novel nonprotein coding RNAs.

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Institute of Experimental Pathology, ZMBE, University of Muenster, Muenster, Germany.


The evolution of new genes can ensue through either gene duplication and the neofunctionalization of one of the copies or the formation of a de novo gene from hitherto nonfunctional, neutrally evolving intergenic or intronic genomic sequences. Only very rarely are entire genes created de novo. Mostly, nonfunctional sequences are coopted as novel parts of existing genes, such as in the process of exonization whereby introns become exons through changes in splicing. Here, we report a case in which a novel nonprotein coding RNA evolved by intron-sequence recruitment into its structure. cDNAs derived from rat brain small RNAs, revealed a novel small nucleolar RNA (snoRNA) originating from one of the Snord115 copies in the rat Prader-Willi syndrome locus. We suggest that a single-point substitution in the Snord115 region led to the expression of a longer snoRNA variant, designated as L-Snord115. Cell culture and footprinting experiments confirmed that a single nucleotide substitution at Snord115 position 67 destabilized the kink-turn motif within the canonical snoRNA, while distal intronic sequences provided an alternate D-box region. The exapted sequence displays putative base pairing to 28S rRNA and mRNA targets.


K-turn motif; Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS); evolution of novel nonprotein coding RNA variants; processing mutant; snoRNA biogenesis; rat Snord115

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