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Nuku, a family of primate retrocopies derived from KU70

, Aisha Ellahi, , Jagdish Suresh Patel, ,
G3 Genes|Genomes|Genetics ; doi:10.1093/g3journal/jkab163

Abstract: The gene encoding the ubiquitous DNA repair protein, Ku70p, has undergone extensive copy number expansion during primate evolution. Gene duplications of KU70 have the hallmark of long interspersed element-1 mediated retrotransposition with evidence of target-site duplications, the poly-A tails, and the absence of introns. Evolutionary analysis of this expanded family of KU70-derived “NUKU” retrocopies reveals that these genes are both ancient and also actively being created in extant primate species. NUKU retrocopies show evidence of functional divergence away from KU70, as evinced by their altered pattern of tissue expression and possible tissue-specific translation. Molecular modeling predicted that amino acid changes in Nuku2p at the interaction interface with Ku80p would prevent the assembly of the Ku heterodimer. The lack of Nuku2p-Ku80p interaction was confirmed by yeast two-hybrid assay, which contrasts the robust interaction of Ku70p-Ku80p. While several NUKU retrocopies appear to have been degraded by mutation, NUKU2 shows evidence of positive natural selection, suggesting that this retrocopy is undergoing neofunctionalization. Although Nuku proteins do not appear to antagonize retrovirus transduction in cell culture, the observed expansion and rapid evolution of NUKUs could be being driven by alternative selective pressures related to infectious disease or an undefined role in primate physiology.
Keywords: Retrocopy / Ku70 / Primates / NHEJ

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