The evolutionary conservation of the bidirectional activity of theNWCgene promoter in jawed vertebrates and the domestication of theRAGtransposon

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Abstract

The RAG-1 and RAG-2 genes form a recombinase complex that is indispensable for V(D)J recombination, which generates the diversity of immunoglobulins and T-cell receptors. It is widely accepted that the presence of RAGs in the genomes of jawed vertebrates and other lineages is a result of the horizontal transfer of a mobile genetic element. While a substantial amount of evidence has been gathered that clarifies the nature of the RAG transposon, far less attention has been paid to the genomic site of its integration in various host organisms. In all genomes of the jawed vertebrates that have been studied to date, the RAG genes are located in close proximity to the NWC gene. We have previously shown that the promoter of the murine NWC genes exhibits a bidirectional activity, which may have facilitated the integration and survival of the RAG transposon in the host genome. In this study, we characterise the promoters of the NWC homologues that are present in the representatives of other jawed vertebrates (H. sapiens, X. tropicalis and D. rerio). We show that the features that are characteristic for promoters as the hosts of a successful transposon integration (in terms of the arrangement, bidirectional and constitutive activity and the involvement of the Zfp143 transcription factor in the promoter regulation) are evolutionarily conserved, which indicates that the presence of RAG genes in jawed vertebrates is a direct result of a successful transposon integration into the NWC locus.

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