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Elife. 2016 Feb 2;5:e09977. doi: 10.7554/eLife.09977.

Fast turnover of genome transcription across evolutionary time exposes entire non-coding DNA to de novo gene emergence.

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Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Plön, Germany.


Deep sequencing analyses have shown that a large fraction of genomes is transcribed, but the significance of this transcription is much debated. Here, we characterize the phylogenetic turnover of poly-adenylated transcripts in a comprehensive sampling of taxa of the mouse (genus Mus), spanning a phylogenetic distance of 10 Myr. Using deep RNA sequencing we find that at a given sequencing depth transcriptome coverage becomes saturated within a taxon, but keeps extending when compared between taxa, even at this very shallow phylogenetic level. Our data show a high turnover of transcriptional states between taxa and that no major transcript-free islands exist across evolutionary time. This suggests that the entire genome can be transcribed into poly-adenylated RNA when viewed at an evolutionary time scale. We conclude that any part of the non-coding genome can potentially become subject to evolutionary functionalization via de novo gene evolution within relatively short evolutionary time spans.


de novo genes; evolution; evolutionary biology; genomics; mouse; transcriptome

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