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E-GEOD-72236 - The life history of retrocopies illuminates the evolution of new mammalian genes

Released on 16 December 2015, last updated on 19 December 2015
Pongo pygmaeus
Samples (2)
Protocols (1)
New genes contribute substantially to adaptive evolutionary innovation, but the functional evolution of new mammalian genes has been little explored at a broad scale. Previous work established mRNA-derived gene duplicates, known as retrocopies, as useful models for the study of new gene origination. Here we combine extensive mammalian transcriptomic and epigenomic data to unveil the processes underlying the evolution of stripped-down retrocopies into complex new genes. We show that although some robustly expressed retrocopies are transcribed from preexisting promoters, the majority evolved new promoters from scratch or recruited proto-promoters in their genomic vicinity. In particular, many retrocopy promoters emerged from ancestral enhancers or bivalent regulatory elements, as well as from CpG islands not associated to other genes. Altogether, these mechanisms facilitated the birth of up to 280 retrogenes in each therian species. Furthermore, the regulatory evolution of the originally monoexonic retrocopies was frequently accompanied by exon gain, which facilitated the cooption of distant promoters and in many cases allowed the expression of alternative isoforms. While young retrogenes are often initially expressed in the testis, increased regulatory and structural complexities allowed retrogenes to functionally diversify and evolve somatic organ functions, sometimes as complex as those of their parents. Thus, some retrogenes evolved the capacity to temporarily substitute their parents during the process of male (meiotic) X inactivation, while others even rendered parental functions completely superfluous, allowing for parental gene loss. Overall, our reconstruction of the complete “life history” of mammalian retrogenes highlights the usefulness of retroposition as a general model for understanding new gene birth and functional evolution. Assembly and expression of vertebrate retrogene transcripts
Experiment type
RNA-seq of coding RNA 
Francesco Nicola Carelli <>, Francesco N Carelli, Henrik Kaessmann, Hiroo Imai, Maria Warnefors, Takashi Hayakawa, Yasuhiro Go
Exp. designProtocolsVariablesProcessedSeq. reads
Investigation descriptionE-GEOD-72236.idf.txt
Sample and data relationshipE-GEOD-72236.sdrf.txt
Processed data (1)