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1.  Transposable Element Insertions in Long Intergenic Non-Coding RNA Genes 
Transposable elements (TEs) are abundant in mammalian genomes and appear to have contributed to the evolution of their hosts by providing novel regulatory or coding sequences. We analyzed different regions of long intergenic non-coding RNA (lincRNA) genes in human and mouse genomes to systematically assess the potential contribution of TEs to the evolution of the structure and regulation of expression of lincRNA genes. Introns of lincRNA genes contain the highest percentage of TE-derived sequences (TES), followed by exons and then promoter regions although the density of TEs is not significantly different between exons and promoters. Higher frequencies of ancient TEs in promoters and exons compared to introns implies that many lincRNA genes emerged before the split of primates and rodents. The content of TES in lincRNA genes is substantially higher than that in protein-coding genes, especially in exons and promoter regions. A significant positive correlation was detected between the content of TEs and evolutionary rate of lincRNAs indicating that inserted TEs are preferentially fixed in fast-evolving lincRNA genes. These results are consistent with the repeat insertion domains of LncRNAs hypothesis under which TEs have substantially contributed to the origin, evolution, and, in particular, fast functional diversification, of lincRNA genes.
PMCID: PMC4460805  PMID: 26106594
mobile elements; molecular domestication; exaptation; junk DNA; long non-coding RNA; repetitive elements
2.  Negative Correlation between Expression Level and Evolutionary Rate of Long Intergenic Noncoding RNAs 
Genome Biology and Evolution  2011;3:1390-1404.
Mammalian genomes contain numerous genes for long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs). The functions of the lncRNAs remain largely unknown but their evolution appears to be constrained by purifying selection, albeit relatively weakly. To gain insights into the mode of evolution and the functional range of the lncRNA, they can be compared with much better characterized protein-coding genes. The evolutionary rate of the protein-coding genes shows a universal negative correlation with expression: highly expressed genes are on average more conserved during evolution than the genes with lower expression levels. This correlation was conceptualized in the misfolding-driven protein evolution hypothesis according to which misfolding is the principal cost incurred by protein expression. We sought to determine whether long intergenic ncRNAs (lincRNAs) follow the same evolutionary trend and indeed detected a moderate but statistically significant negative correlation between the evolutionary rate and expression level of human and mouse lincRNA genes. The magnitude of the correlation for the lincRNAs is similar to that for equal-sized sets of protein-coding genes with similar levels of sequence conservation. Additionally, the expression level of the lincRNAs is significantly and positively correlated with the predicted extent of lincRNA molecule folding (base-pairing), however, the contributions of evolutionary rates and folding to the expression level are independent. Thus, the anticorrelation between evolutionary rate and expression level appears to be a general feature of gene evolution that might be caused by similar deleterious effects of protein and RNA misfolding and/or other factors, for example, the number of interacting partners of the gene product.
PMCID: PMC3242500  PMID: 22071789
long noncoding RNA; ncRNA; RNA expression; genomic alignments; introns; RNA folding
3.  A late origin of the extant eukaryotic diversity: divergence time estimates using rare genomic changes 
Biology Direct  2011;6:26.
Accurate estimation of the divergence time of the extant eukaryotes is a fundamentally important but extremely difficult problem owing primarily to gross violations of the molecular clock at long evolutionary distances and the lack of appropriate calibration points close to the date of interest. These difficulties are intrinsic to the dating of ancient divergence events and are reflected in the large discrepancies between estimates obtained with different approaches. Estimates of the age of Last Eukaryotic Common Ancestor (LECA) vary approximately twofold, from ~1,100 million years ago (Mya) to ~2,300 Mya.
We applied the genome-wide analysis of rare genomic changes associated with conserved amino acids (RGC_CAs) and used several independent techniques to obtain date estimates for the divergence of the major lineages of eukaryotes with calibration intervals for insects, land plants and vertebrates. The results suggest an early divergence of monocot and dicot plants, approximately 340 Mya, raising the possibility of plant-insect coevolution. The divergence of bilaterian animal phyla is estimated at ~400-700 Mya, a range of dates that is consistent with cladogenesis immediately preceding the Cambrian explosion. The origin of opisthokonts (the supergroup of eukaryotes that includes metazoa and fungi) is estimated at ~700-1,000 Mya, and the age of LECA at ~1,000-1,300 Mya. We separately analyzed the red algal calibration interval which is based on single fossil. This analysis produced time estimates that were systematically older compared to the other estimates. Nevertheless, the majority of the estimates for the age of the LECA using the red algal data fell within the 1,200-1,400 Mya interval.
The inference of a "young LECA" is compatible with the latest of previously estimated dates and has substantial biological implications. If these estimates are valid, the approximately 1 to 1.4 billion years of evolution of eukaryotes that is open to comparative-genomic study probably was preceded by hundreds of millions years of evolution that might have included extinct diversity inaccessible to comparative approaches.
This article was reviewed by William Martin, Herve Philippe (nominated by I. King Jordan), and Romain Derelle.
PMCID: PMC3125394  PMID: 21595937
bilateria; opisthokonts; angiosperms; last eukaryotic common ancestor; molecular dating

Results 1-3 (3)