4 years ago

The exonization and functionalization of an Alu-J element in the protein coding region of glycoprotein hormone alpha gene represent a novel mechanism to the evolution of hemochorial placentation in primates.

Wu, Chen, Deng, Shen, Yang
Alu elements contribute considerably to gene regulation and genome evolution in primates. The generation of new exons from Alu elements has been found in various human genes, and the regulatory function of the Alu exon has been investigated in many studies. However, the functionalization of Alu elements in protein coding regions remains unknown. Here, we reported that an Alu-J element exonized in the glycoprotein hormone alpha (GPHA) gene and encoded an additional N-terminal peptide (Alu-J encoding peptide) of the mature GPHA peptide, leading to a splicing variant of Alu-GPHA in anthropoid primates approximately 35 million years ago. Interestingly, adaptive evolution of the Alu-J exon occurred in the human and ape lineages during anthropoid evolution. The Alu-J encoding peptide is found to be a new biomarker in human early pregnancy and prolongs the serum half-life of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) circulation. Moreover, Alu-J encoding peptide enhances the bioactivity of HCG protein, both in vivo and in vitro. Our study reveals the first example of an Alu element functioning as the encoding peptide to increase the whole protein stability and provides insight into the potential multi-functionalization of the Alu exon in the protein coding regions. Furthermore, with the chorionic gonadotropin (CG) linking with hemochorial placentation, the exonization and functionalization of the Alu-J exon in GPHA gene represent a novel mechanism to the evolution of hemochorial placentation in primates.

Publisher URL: http://doi.org/10.1093/molbev/msx252

DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msx252

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