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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2015 Apr;1341:115-25. doi: 10.1111/nyas.12713. Epub 2015 Feb 26.

DNA and RNA editing of retrotransposons accelerate mammalian genome evolution.

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The Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel.


Genome evolution is commonly viewed as a gradual process that is driven by random mutations that accumulate over time. However, DNA- and RNA-editing enzymes have been identified that can accelerate evolution by actively modifying the genomically encoded information. The apolipoprotein B mRNA editing enzymes, catalytic polypeptide-like (APOBECs) are potent restriction factors that can inhibit retroelements by cytosine-to-uridine editing of retroelement DNA after reverse transcription. In some cases, a retroelement may successfully integrate into the genome despite being hypermutated. Such events introduce unique sequences into the genome and are thus a source of genomic innovation. adenosine deaminases that act on RNA (ADARs) catalyze adenosine-to-inosine editing in double-stranded RNA, commonly formed by oppositely oriented retroelements. The RNA editing confers plasticity to the transcriptome by generating many transcript variants from a single genomic locus. If the editing produces a beneficial variant, the genome may maintain the locus that produces the RNA-edited transcript for its novel function. Here, we discuss how these two powerful editing mechanisms, which both target inserted retroelements, facilitate expedited genome evolution.


ADAR; APOBEC; DNA editing; RNA editing; genome evolution; retrotransposons

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