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Spliceosomal Intron Insertions in Genome Compacted Ray-Finned Fishes as Evident from Phylogeny of MC Receptors, Also Supported by a Few Other GPCRs

Public Library of Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0022046
  • Research Article
  • Biology
  • Computational Biology
  • Genomics
  • Physiogenomics
  • Sequence Analysis
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Evolutionary Systematics
  • Phylogenetics
  • Comparative Genomics
  • Evolutionary Genetics


Background Insertions of spliceosomal introns are very rare events during evolution of vertebrates and the mechanisms governing creation of novel intron(s) remain obscure. Largely, gene structures of melanocortin (MC) receptors are characterized by intron-less architecture. However, recently a few exceptions have been reported in some fishes. This warrants a systematic survey of MC receptors for understanding intron insertion events during vertebrate evolution. Methodology/Principal Findings We have compiled an extended list of MC receptors from different vertebrate genomes with variations in fishes. Notably, the closely linked MC2Rs and MC5Rs from a group of ray-finned fishes have three and one intron insertion(s), respectively, with conserved positions and intron phase. In both genes, one novel insertion was in the highly conserved DRY motif at the end of helix TM3. Further, the proto-splice site MAG↑R is maintained at intron insertion sites in these two genes. However, the orthologs of these receptors from zebrafish and tetrapods are intron-less, suggesting these introns are simultaneously created in selected fishes. Surprisingly, these novel introns are traceable only in four fish genomes. We found that these fish genomes are severely compacted after the separation from zebrafish. Furthermore, we also report novel intron insertions in P2Y receptors and in CHRM3. Finally, we report ultrasmall introns in MC2R genes from selected fishes. Conclusions/Significance The current repository of MC receptors illustrates that fishes have no MC3R ortholog. MC2R, MC5R, P2Y receptors and CHRM3 have novel intron insertions only in ray-finned fishes that underwent genome compaction. These receptors share one intron at an identical position suggestive of being inserted contemporaneously. In addition to repetitive elements, genome compaction is now believed to be a new hallmark that promotes intron insertions, as it requires rapid DNA breakage and subsequent repair processes to gain back normal functionality.

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