Genetics

Pseudo Regulators No More

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Science  20 May 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6032, pp. 897
DOI: 10.1126/science.332.6032.897-b

For many years, pseudogenes were thought to just be “junk” DNA: present in the genome but noncoding and therefore without function. Many recent studies now indicate that this is not the case, and studies in mice and rice suggest that pseudogenes generate small RNAs that have regulatory function. Wen et al. investigated pseudogene expression in the ancient eukaryote Trypanosoma brucei, a significant human pathogen. Earlier studies suggested that T. brucei pseudogenes were important for generating chimeric genes for antigenic variation and immune escape, but it appears that by pairing with the complementary coding gene, pseudogenes in T. brucei generate small RNAs that modulate the expression of the coding gene by RNA interference. The pseudogene-derived siRNAs appear to regulate genes of diverse functions, including genes involved in metabolic processes. This discovery in an ancient protist, as well as in mice and plants, indicates that pseudogene-RNAi regulation is widespread among eukaryotes.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 108, 10.1073/pnas.1103894108 (2011).

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