Resurrection of the Human IRGM Gene

Posted on March 8, 2009  Comments (0)

Interesting open access paper on Death and Resurrection of the Human IRGM Gene. Author summary:

The IRG gene family plays an important role in defense against intracellular bacteria, and genome-wide association studies have implicated structural variants of the single-copy human IRGM locus as a risk factor for Crohn’s disease. We reconstruct the evolutionary history of this region among primates and show that the ancestral tandem gene family contracted to a single pseudogene within the ancestral lineage of apes and monkeys.

Phylogenetic analyses support a model where the gene has been “dead” for at least 25 million years of human primate evolution but whose ORF became restored in all human and great ape lineages. We suggest that the rebirth or restoration of the gene coincided with the insertion of an endogenous retrovirus, which now serves as the functional promoter driving human gene expression. We suggest that either the gene is not functional in humans or this represents one of the first documented examples of gene death and rebirth.

Related: 8 Percent of the Human Genome is Old Virus GenesOld Viruses Resurrected Through DNAOne Species’ Genome Discovered Inside Another’sposts on genesGene against bacterial attack unravelledGene Duplication and Evolution

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