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Genome Biol Evol. 2017 Jun 1;9(6):1547-1560. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evx106.

Evolution of miRNA Tailing by 3' Terminal Uridylyl Transferases in Metazoa.

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Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences, Faculty of Science, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel.


In bilaterian animals the 3' ends of microRNAs (miRNAs) are frequently modified by tailing and trimming. These modifications affect miRNA-mediated gene regulation by modulating miRNA stability. Here, we analyzed data from three nonbilaterian animals: two cnidarians (Nematostella vectensis and Hydra magnipapillata) and one poriferan (Amphimedon queenslandica). Our analysis revealed that nonbilaterian miRNAs frequently undergo modifications like the bilaterian counterparts: the majority are expressed as different length isoforms and frequent modifications of the 3' end by mono U or mono A tailing are observed. Moreover, as the factors regulating miRNA modifications are largely uncharacterized in nonbilaterian animal phyla, in present study, we investigated the evolution of 3' terminal uridylyl transferases (TUTases) that are known to involved in miRNA 3' nontemplated modifications in Bilateria. Phylogenetic analysis on TUTases showed that TUTase1 and TUTase6 are a result of duplication in bilaterians and that TUTase7 and TUTase4 are the result of a vertebrate-specific duplication. We also find an unexpected number of Drosophila-specific gene duplications and domain losses in most of the investigated gene families. Overall, our findings shed new light on the evolutionary history of TUTases in Metazoa, as they reveal that this core set of enzymes already existed in the last common ancestor of all animals and was probably involved in modifying small RNAs in a similar fashion to its present activity in bilaterians.


RNA modification; RNA tailing; TUTase; microRNA

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