Determining the full complement of protein-coding genes is a key goal of genome annotation. The most powerful approach for confirming protein-coding potential is the detection of cellular protein expression through peptide mass spectrometry (MS) experiments. Here, we mapped peptides detected in seven large-scale proteomics studies to almost 60% of the protein-coding genes in the GENCODE annotation of the human genome. We found a strong relationship between detection in proteomics experiments and both gene family age and cross-species conservation. Most of the genes for which we detected peptides were highly conserved. We found peptides for >96% of genes that evolved before bilateria. At the opposite end of the scale, we identified almost no peptides for genes that have appeared since primates, for genes that did not have any protein-like features or for genes with poor cross-species conservation. These results motivated us to describe a set of 2001 potential non-coding genes based on features such as weak conservation, a lack of protein features, or ambiguous annotations from major databases, all of which correlated with low peptide detection across the seven experiments. We identified peptides for just 3% of these genes. We show that many of these genes behave more like non-coding genes than protein-coding genes and suggest that most are unlikely to code for proteins under normal circumstances. We believe that their inclusion in the human protein-coding gene catalogue should be revised as part of the ongoing human genome annotation effort.
RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) is transforming genome biology, enabling comprehensive transcriptome profiling with unprecendented accuracy and detail. Due to technical limitations of current high-throughput sequencing platforms, transcript identity, structure and expression level must be inferred programmatically from partial sequence reads of fragmented gene products. We evaluated 24 protocol variants of 14 independent computational methods for exon identification, transcript reconstruction and expression level quantification from RNA-seq data. Our results show that most algorithms are able to identify discrete transcript components with high success rates, but that assembly of complete isoform structures poses a major challenge even when all constituent elements are identified. Expression level estimates also varied widely across methods, even when based on similar transcript models. Consequently, the complexity of higher eukaryotic genomes imposes severe limitations in transcript recall and splice product discrimination that are likely to remain limiting factors for the analysis of current-generation RNA-seq data.
High-throughput RNA sequencing is an increasingly accessible method for studying gene structure and activity on a genome-wide scale. A critical step in RNA-seq data analysis is the alignment of partial transcript reads to a reference genome sequence. to assess the performance of current mapping software, we invited developers of RNA-seq aligners to process four large human and mouse RNA-seq data sets. in total, we compared 26 mapping protocols based on 11 programs and pipelines and found major performance differences between methods on numerous benchmarks, including alignment yield, basewise accuracy, mismatch and gap placement, exon junction discovery and suitability of alignments for transcript reconstruction. We observed concordant results on real and simulated RNA-seq data, confirming the relevance of the metrics employed. Future developments in RNA-seq alignment methods would benefit from improved placement of multimapped reads, balanced utilization of existing gene annotation and a reduced false discovery rate for splice junctions.
Zebrafish have become a popular organism for the study of vertebrate gene function1,2. The virtually transparent embryos of this species, and the ability to accelerate genetic studies by gene knockdown or overexpression, have led to the widespread use of zebrafish in the detailed investigation of vertebrate gene function and increasingly, the study of human genetic disease3–5. However, for effective modelling of human genetic disease it is important to understand the extent to which zebrafish genes and gene structures are related to orthologous human genes. To examine this, we generated a high-quality sequence assembly of the zebrafish genome, made up of an overlapping set of completely sequenced large-insert clones that were ordered and oriented using a high-resolution high-density meiotic map. Detailed automatic and manual annotation provides evidence of more than 26,000 protein-coding genes6, the largest gene set of any vertebrate so far sequenced. Comparison to the human reference genome shows that approximately 70% of human genes have at least one obvious zebrafish orthologue. In addition, the high quality of this genome assembly provides a clearer understanding of key genomic features such as a unique repeat content, a scarcity of pseudogenes, an enrichment of zebrafish-specific genes on chromosome 4 and chromosomal regions that influence sex determination.
The genetic contribution to the variation in human lifespan is ∼25%. Despite the large number of identified disease-susceptibility loci, it is not known which loci influence population mortality. We performed a genome-wide association meta-analysis of 7729 long-lived individuals of European descent (≥85 years) and 16 121 younger controls (<65 years) followed by replication in an additional set of 13 060 long-lived individuals and 61 156 controls. In addition, we performed a subset analysis in cases aged ≥90 years. We observed genome-wide significant association with longevity, as reflected by survival to ages beyond 90 years, at a novel locus, rs2149954, on chromosome 5q33.3 (OR = 1.10, P = 1.74 × 10−8). We also confirmed association of rs4420638 on chromosome 19q13.32 (OR = 0.72, P = 3.40 × 10−36), representing the TOMM40/APOE/APOC1 locus. In a prospective meta-analysis (n = 34 103), the minor allele of rs2149954 (T) on chromosome 5q33.3 associates with increased survival (HR = 0.95, P = 0.003). This allele has previously been reported to associate with low blood pressure in middle age. Interestingly, the minor allele (T) associates with decreased cardiovascular mortality risk, independent of blood pressure. We report on the first GWAS-identified longevity locus on chromosome 5q33.3 influencing survival in the general European population. The minor allele of this locus associates with low blood pressure in middle age, although the contribution of this allele to survival may be less dependent on blood pressure. Hence, the pleiotropic mechanisms by which this intragenic variation contributes to lifespan regulation have to be elucidated.
The Vertebrate Genome Annotation (VEGA) database (http://vega.sanger.ac.uk), initially designed as a community resource for browsing manual annotation of the human genome project, now contains five reference genomes (human, mouse, zebrafish, pig and rat). Its introduction pages have been redesigned to enable the user to easily navigate between whole genomes and smaller multi-species haplotypic regions of interest such as the major histocompatibility complex. The VEGA browser is unique in that annotation is updated via the Human And Vertebrate Analysis aNd Annotation (HAVANA) update track every 2 weeks, allowing single gene updates to be made publicly available to the research community quickly. The user can now access different haplotypic subregions more easily, such as those from the non-obese diabetic mouse, and display them in a more intuitive way using the comparative tools. We also highlight how the user can browse manually annotated updated patches from the Genome Reference Consortium (GRC).
Ensembl (http://www.ensembl.org) creates tools and data resources to facilitate genomic analysis in chordate species with an emphasis on human, major vertebrate model organisms and farm animals. Over the past year we have increased the number of species that we support to 77 and expanded our genome browser with a new scrollable overview and improved variation and phenotype views. We also report updates to our core datasets and improvements to our gene homology relationships from the addition of new species. Our REST service has been extended with additional support for comparative genomics and ontology information. Finally, we provide updated information about our methods for data access and resources for user training.
The Consensus Coding Sequence (CCDS) project (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/CCDS/) is a collaborative effort to maintain a dataset of protein-coding regions that are identically annotated on the human and mouse reference genome assemblies by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) and Ensembl genome annotation pipelines. Identical annotations that pass quality assurance tests are tracked with a stable identifier (CCDS ID). Members of the collaboration, who are from NCBI, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the University of California Santa Cruz, provide coordinated and continuous review of the dataset to ensure high-quality CCDS representations. We describe here the current status and recent growth in the CCDS dataset, as well as recent changes to the CCDS web and FTP sites. These changes include more explicit reporting about the NCBI and Ensembl annotation releases being compared, new search and display options, the addition of biologically descriptive information and our approach to representing genes for which support evidence is incomplete. We also present a summary of recent and future curation targets.
RNA sequencing has opened new avenues for the study of transcriptome composition. Significant evidence has accumulated showing that the human transcriptome contains in excess of a hundred thousand different transcripts. However, it is still not clear to what extent this diversity prevails when considering the relative abundances of different transcripts from the same gene.
Here we show that, in a given condition, most protein coding genes have one major transcript expressed at significantly higher level than others, that in human tissues the major transcripts contribute almost 85 percent to the total mRNA from protein coding loci, and that often the same major transcript is expressed in many tissues. We detect a high degree of overlap between the set of major transcripts and a recently published set of alternatively spliced transcripts that are predicted to be translated utilizing proteomic data. Thus, we hypothesize that although some minor transcripts may play a functional role, the major ones are likely to be the main contributors to the proteome. However, we still detect a non-negligible fraction of protein coding genes for which the major transcript does not code a protein.
Overall, our findings suggest that the transcriptome from protein coding loci is dominated by one transcript per gene and that not all the transcripts that contribute to transcriptome diversity are equally likely to contribute to protein diversity. This observation can help to prioritize candidate targets in proteomics research and to predict the functional impact of the detected changes in variation studies.
splicing; transcriptome; gene expression; RNA-seq
Eukaryotic cells make many types of primary and processed RNAs that are found either in specific sub-cellular compartments or throughout the cells. A complete catalogue of these RNAs is not yet available and their characteristic sub-cellular localizations are also poorly understood. Since RNA represents the direct output of the genetic information encoded by genomes and a significant proportion of a cell’s regulatory capabilities are focused on its synthesis, processing, transport, modifications and translation, the generation of such a catalogue is crucial for understanding genome function. Here we report evidence that three quarters of the human genome is capable of being transcribed, as well as observations about the range and levels of expression, localization, processing fates, regulatory regions and modifications of almost all currently annotated and thousands of previously unannotated RNAs. These observations taken together prompt to a redefinition of the concept of a gene.
Model organisms are becoming increasingly important for the study of complex diseases such as type 1 diabetes (T1D). The non-obese diabetic (NOD) mouse is an experimental model for T1D having been bred to develop the disease spontaneously in a process that is similar to humans. Genetic analysis of the NOD mouse has identified around 50 disease loci, which have the nomenclature Idd for insulin-dependent diabetes, distributed across at least 11 different chromosomes. In total, 21 Idd regions across 6 chromosomes, that are major contributors to T1D susceptibility or resistance, were selected for finished sequencing and annotation at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Here we describe the generation of 40.4 mega base-pairs of finished sequence from 289 bacterial artificial chromosomes for the NOD mouse. Manual annotation has identified 738 genes in the diabetes sensitive NOD mouse and 765 genes in homologous regions of the diabetes resistant C57BL/6J reference mouse across 19 candidate Idd regions. This has allowed us to call variation consequences between homologous exonic sequences for all annotated regions in the two mouse strains. We demonstrate the importance of this resource further by illustrating the technical difficulties that regions of inter-strain structural variation between the NOD mouse and the C57BL/6J reference mouse can cause for current next generation sequencing and assembly techniques. Furthermore, we have established that the variation rate in the Idd regions is 2.3 times higher than the mean found for the whole genome assembly for the NOD/ShiLtJ genome, which we suggest reflects the fact that positive selection for functional variation in immune genes is beneficial in regard to host defence. In summary, we provide an important resource, which aids the analysis of potential causative genes involved in T1D susceptibility.
The domestic pig is known as an excellent model for human immunology and the two species share many pathogens. Susceptibility to infectious disease is one of the major constraints on swine performance, yet the structure and function of genes comprising the pig immunome are not well-characterized. The completion of the pig genome provides the opportunity to annotate the pig immunome, and compare and contrast pig and human immune systems.
The Immune Response Annotation Group (IRAG) used computational curation and manual annotation of the swine genome assembly 10.2 (Sscrofa10.2) to refine the currently available automated annotation of 1,369 immunity-related genes through sequence-based comparison to genes in other species. Within these genes, we annotated 3,472 transcripts. Annotation provided evidence for gene expansions in several immune response families, and identified artiodactyl-specific expansions in the cathelicidin and type 1 Interferon families. We found gene duplications for 18 genes, including 13 immune response genes and five non-immune response genes discovered in the annotation process. Manual annotation provided evidence for many new alternative splice variants and 8 gene duplications. Over 1,100 transcripts without porcine sequence evidence were detected using cross-species annotation. We used a functional approach to discover and accurately annotate porcine immune response genes. A co-expression clustering analysis of transcriptomic data from selected experimental infections or immune stimulations of blood, macrophages or lymph nodes identified a large cluster of genes that exhibited a correlated positive response upon infection across multiple pathogens or immune stimuli. Interestingly, this gene cluster (cluster 4) is enriched for known general human immune response genes, yet contains many un-annotated porcine genes. A phylogenetic analysis of the encoded proteins of cluster 4 genes showed that 15% exhibited an accelerated evolution as compared to 4.1% across the entire genome.
This extensive annotation dramatically extends the genome-based knowledge of the molecular genetics and structure of a major portion of the porcine immunome. Our complementary functional approach using co-expression during immune response has provided new putative immune response annotation for over 500 porcine genes. Our phylogenetic analysis of this core immunome cluster confirms rapid evolutionary change in this set of genes, and that, as in other species, such genes are important components of the pig’s adaptation to pathogen challenge over evolutionary time. These comprehensive and integrated analyses increase the value of the porcine genome sequence and provide important tools for global analyses and data-mining of the porcine immune response.
Immune response; Porcine; Genome annotation; Co-expression network; Phylogenetic analysis; Accelerated evolution
Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes play a critical role in vertebrate immune response and because the MHC is linked to a significant number of auto-immune and other diseases it is of great medical interest. Here we describe the clone-based sequencing and subsequent annotation of the MHC region of the gorilla genome. Because the MHC is subject to extensive variation, both structural and sequence-wise, it is not readily amenable to study in whole genome shotgun sequence such as the recently published gorilla genome. The variation of the MHC also makes it of evolutionary interest and therefore we analyse the sequence in the context of human and chimpanzee. In our comparisons with human and re-annotated chimpanzee MHC sequence we find that gorilla has a trimodular RCCX cluster, versus the reference human bimodular cluster, and additional copies of Class I (pseudo)genes between Gogo-K and Gogo-A (the orthologues of HLA-K and -A). We also find that Gogo-H (and Patr-H) is coding versus the HLA-H pseudogene and, conversely, there is a Gogo-DQB2 pseudogene versus the HLA-DQB2 coding gene. Our analysis, which is freely available through the VEGA genome browser, provides the research community with a comprehensive dataset for comparative and evolutionary research of the MHC.
Gene targeting in embryonic stem cells has become the principal technology for manipulation of the mouse genome, offering unrivalled accuracy in allele design and access to conditional mutagenesis. To bring these advantages to the wider research community, large-scale mouse knockout programmes are producing a permanent resource of targeted mutations in all protein-coding genes. Here we report the establishment of a high-throughput gene-targeting pipeline for the generation of reporter-tagged, conditional alleles. Computational allele design, 96-well modular vector construction and high-efficiency gene-targeting strategies have been combined to mutate genes on an unprecedented scale. So far, more than 12,000 vectors and 9,000 conditional targeted alleles have been produced in highly germline-competent C57BL/6N embryonic stem cells. High-throughput genome engineering highlighted by this study is broadly applicable to rat and human stem cells and provides a foundation for future genome-wide efforts aimed at deciphering the function of all genes encoded by the mammalian genome.
For 10,000 years pigs and humans have shared a close and complex relationship. From domestication to modern breeding practices, humans have shaped the genomes of domestic pigs. Here we present the assembly and analysis of the genome sequence of a female domestic Duroc pig (Sus scrofa) and a comparison with the genomes of wild and domestic pigs from Europe and Asia. Wild pigs emerged in South East Asia and subsequently spread across Eurasia. Our results reveal a deep phylogenetic split between European and Asian wild boars ~1 million years ago, and a selective sweep analysis indicates selection on genes involved in RNA processing and regulation. Genes associated with immune response and olfaction exhibit fast evolution. Pigs have the largest repertoire of functional olfactory receptor genes, reflecting the importance of smell in this scavenging animal. The pig genome sequence provides an important resource for further improvements of this important livestock species, and our identification of many putative disease-causing variants extends the potential of the pig as a biomedical model.
The Ensembl project (http://www.ensembl.org) provides genome information for sequenced chordate genomes with a particular focus on human, mouse, zebrafish and rat. Our resources include evidenced-based gene sets for all supported species; large-scale whole genome multiple species alignments across vertebrates and clade-specific alignments for eutherian mammals, primates, birds and fish; variation data resources for 17 species and regulation annotations based on ENCODE and other data sets. Ensembl data are accessible through the genome browser at http://www.ensembl.org and through other tools and programmatic interfaces.
Pseudogenes have long been considered as nonfunctional genomic sequences. However, recent evidence suggests that many of them might have some form of biological activity, and the possibility of functionality has increased interest in their accurate annotation and integration with functional genomics data.
As part of the GENCODE annotation of the human genome, we present the first genome-wide pseudogene assignment for protein-coding genes, based on both large-scale manual annotation and in silico pipelines. A key aspect of this coupled approach is that it allows us to identify pseudogenes in an unbiased fashion as well as untangle complex events through manual evaluation. We integrate the pseudogene annotations with the extensive ENCODE functional genomics information. In particular, we determine the expression level, transcription-factor and RNA polymerase II binding, and chromatin marks associated with each pseudogene. Based on their distribution, we develop simple statistical models for each type of activity, which we validate with large-scale RT-PCR-Seq experiments. Finally, we compare our pseudogenes with conservation and variation data from primate alignments and the 1000 Genomes project, producing lists of pseudogenes potentially under selection.
At one extreme, some pseudogenes possess conventional characteristics of functionality; these may represent genes that have recently died. On the other hand, we find interesting patterns of partial activity, which may suggest that dead genes are being resurrected as functioning non-coding RNAs. The activity data of each pseudogene are stored in an associated resource, psiDR, which will be useful for the initial identification of potentially functional pseudogenes.
Genome sequencing studies indicate that all humans carry many genetic variants predicted to cause loss of function (LoF) of protein-coding genes, suggesting unexpected redundancy in the human genome. Here we apply stringent filters to 2,951 putative LoF variants obtained from 185 human genomes to determine their true prevalence and properties. We estimate that human genomes typically contain ~100 genuine LoF variants with ~20 genes completely inactivated. We identify rare and likely deleterious LoF alleles, including 26 known and 21 predicted severe disease-causing variants, as well as common LoF variants in non-essential genes. We describe functional and evolutionary differences between LoF-tolerant and recessive disease genes, and a method for using these differences to prioritize candidate genes found in clinical sequencing studies.
Advances in high-throughput mass spectrometry are making proteomics an increasingly important tool in genome annotation projects. Peptides detected in mass spectrometry experiments can be used to validate gene models and verify the translation of putative coding sequences (CDSs). Here, we have identified peptides that cover 35% of the genes annotated by the GENCODE consortium for the human genome as part of a comprehensive analysis of experimental spectra from two large publicly available mass spectrometry databases. We detected the translation to protein of “novel” and “putative” protein-coding transcripts as well as transcripts annotated as pseudogenes and nonsense-mediated decay targets.
We provide a detailed overview of the population of alternatively spliced protein isoforms that are detectable by peptide identification methods. We found that 150 genes expressed multiple alternative protein isoforms. This constitutes the largest set of reliably confirmed alternatively spliced proteins yet discovered. Three groups of genes were highly overrepresented. We detected alternative isoforms for 10 of the 25 possible heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoproteins, proteins with a key role in the splicing process. Alternative isoforms generated from interchangeable homologous exons and from short indels were also significantly enriched, both in human experiments and in parallel analyses of mouse and Drosophila proteomics experiments. Our results show that a surprisingly high proportion (almost 25%) of the detected alternative isoforms are only subtly different from their constitutive counterparts.
Many of the alternative splicing events that give rise to these alternative isoforms are conserved in mouse. It was striking that very few of these conserved splicing events broke Pfam functional domains or would damage globular protein structures. This evidence of a strong bias toward subtle differences in CDS and likely conserved cellular function and structure is remarkable and strongly suggests that the translation of alternative transcripts may be subject to selective constraints.
alternative splicing; shotgun proteomics; genome annotation; heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoproteins; NAGNAG splicing; mutually exclusive exons
While alternative splicing (AS) can potentially expand the functional repertoire of vertebrate genomes, relatively few AS transcripts have been experimentally characterized. We describe our detailed manual annotation of vertebrate genomes, which is generating a publicly available geneset rich in AS. In order to achieve this we have adopted a highly sensitive approach to annotating gene models supported by correctly mapped, canonically spliced transcriptional evidence combined with a highly cautious approach to adding unsupported extensions to models and making decisions on their functional potential. We use information about the predicted functional potential and structural properties of every AS transcript annotated at a protein-coding or non-coding locus to place them into one of eleven subclasses. We describe the incorporation of new sequencing and proteomics technologies into our annotation pipelines, which are used to identify and validate AS. Combining all data sources has led to the production of a rich geneset containing an average of 6.3 AS transcripts for every human multi-exon protein-coding gene. The datasets produced have proved very useful in providing context to studies investigating the functional potential of genes and the effect of variation may have on gene structure and function.
The Consensus Coding Sequence (CCDS) collaboration involves curators at multiple centers with a goal of producing a conservative set of high quality, protein-coding region annotations for the human and mouse reference genome assemblies. The CCDS data set reflects a ‘gold standard’ definition of best supported protein annotations, and corresponding genes, which pass a standard series of quality assurance checks and are supported by manual curation. This data set supports use of genome annotation information by human and mouse researchers for effective experimental design, analysis and interpretation. The CCDS project consists of analysis of automated whole-genome annotation builds to identify identical CDS annotations, quality assurance testing and manual curation support. Identical CDS annotations are tracked with a CCDS identifier (ID) and any future change to the annotated CDS structure must be agreed upon by the collaborating members. CCDS curation guidelines were developed to address some aspects of curation in order to improve initial annotation consistency and to reduce time spent in discussing proposed annotation updates. Here, we present the current status of the CCDS database and details on our procedures to track and coordinate our efforts. We also present the relevant background and reasoning behind the curation standards that we have developed for CCDS database treatment of transcripts that are nonsense-mediated decay (NMD) candidates, for transcripts containing upstream open reading frames, for identifying the most likely translation start codons and for the annotation of readthrough transcripts. Examples are provided to illustrate the application of these guidelines.
Database URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/CCDS/CcdsBrowse.cgi
Manual annotation of genomic data is extremely valuable to produce an accurate reference gene set but is expensive compared with automatic methods and so has been limited to model organisms. Annotation tools that have been developed at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (WTSI, http://www.sanger.ac.uk/.) are being used to fill that gap, as they can be used remotely and so open up viable community annotation collaborations. We introduce the ‘Blessed’ annotator and ‘Gatekeeper’ approach to Community Annotation using the Otterlace/ZMap genome annotation tool. We also describe the strategies adopted for annotation consistency, quality control and viewing of the annotation.
Database URL: http://vega.sanger.ac.uk/index.html
The classic organization of a gene structure has followed the Jacob and Monod bacterial gene model proposed more than 50 years ago. Since then, empirical determinations of the complexity of the transcriptomes found in yeast to human has blurred the definition and physical boundaries of genes. Using multiple analysis approaches we have characterized individual gene boundaries mapping on human chromosomes 21 and 22. Analyses of the locations of the 5′ and 3′ transcriptional termini of 492 protein coding genes revealed that for 85% of these genes the boundaries extend beyond the current annotated termini, most often connecting with exons of transcripts from other well annotated genes. The biological and evolutionary importance of these chimeric transcripts is underscored by (1) the non-random interconnections of genes involved, (2) the greater phylogenetic depth of the genes involved in many chimeric interactions, (3) the coordination of the expression of connected genes and (4) the close in vivo and three dimensional proximity of the genomic regions being transcribed and contributing to parts of the chimeric RNAs. The non-random nature of the connection of the genes involved suggest that chimeric transcripts should not be studied in isolation, but together, as an RNA network.
The Ensembl project (http://www.ensembl.org) provides genome resources for chordate genomes with a particular focus on human genome data as well as data for key model organisms such as mouse, rat and zebrafish. Five additional species were added in the last year including gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys) and Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) bringing the total number of supported species to 61 as of Ensembl release 64 (September 2011). Of these, 55 species appear on the main Ensembl website and six species are provided on the Ensembl preview site (Pre!Ensembl; http://pre.ensembl.org) with preliminary support. The past year has also seen improvements across the project.
The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) is a group of genes with a variety of roles in the innate and adaptive immune responses. MHC genes form a genetically linked cluster in eutherian mammals, an organization that is thought to confer functional and evolutionary advantages to the immune system. The tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii), an Australian marsupial, provides a unique model for understanding MHC gene evolution, as many of its antigen presenting genes are not linked to the MHC, but are scattered around the genome.
Here we describe the 'core' tammar wallaby MHC region on chromosome 2q by ordering and sequencing 33 BAC clones, covering over 4.5 MB and containing 129 genes. When compared to the MHC region of the South American opossum, eutherian mammals and non-mammals, the wallaby MHC has a novel gene organization. The wallaby has undergone an expansion of MHC class II genes, which are separated into two clusters by the class III genes. The antigen processing genes have undergone duplication, resulting in two copies of TAP1 and three copies of TAP2. Notably, Kangaroo Endogenous Retroviral Elements are present within the region and may have contributed to the genomic instability.
The wallaby MHC has been extensively remodeled since the American and Australian marsupials last shared a common ancestor. The instability is characterized by the movement of antigen presenting genes away from the core MHC, most likely via the presence and activity of retroviral elements. We propose that the movement of class II genes away from the ancestral class II region has allowed this gene family to expand and diversify in the wallaby. The duplication of TAP genes in the wallaby MHC makes this species a unique model organism for studying the relationship between MHC gene organization and function.