PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e46642. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046642. Epub 2012 Oct 31.
Medical Genetics Unit, IRCCS “Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza”, San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy.
Transposable elements, as major components of most eukaryotic organisms’ genomes, define their structural organization and plasticity. They supply host genomes with functional elements, for example, binding sites of the pleiotropic master transcription factor p53 were identified in LINE1, Alu and LTR repeats in the human genome. Similarly, in this report we reveal the role of zebrafish (Danio rerio) EnSpmN6_DR non-autonomous DNA transposon in shaping the repertoire of the p53 target genes. The multiple copies of EnSpmN6_DR and their embedded p53 responsive elements drive in several instances p53-dependent transcriptional modulation of the adjacent gene, whose human orthologs were frequently previously annotated as p53 targets. These transposons define predominantly a set of target genes whose human orthologs contribute to neuronal morphogenesis, axonogenesis, synaptic transmission and the regulation of programmed cell death. Consistent with these biological functions the orthologs of the EnSpmN6_DR-colonized loci are enriched for genes expressed in the amygdala, the hippocampus and the brain cortex. Our data pinpoint a remarkable example of convergent evolution: the exaptation of lineage-specific transposons to shape p53-regulated neuronal morphogenesis-related pathways in both a hominid and a teleost fish.