Journal article

The mouse genome displays highly dynamic populations of KRAB-zinc finger protein genes and related genetic units

KRAB-containing poly-zinc finger proteins (KZFPs) constitute the largest family of transcription factors encoded by mammalian genomes, and growing evidence indicates that they fulfill functions critical to both embryonic development and maintenance of adult homeostasis. KZFP genes underwent broad and independent waves of expansion in many higher vertebrates lineages, yet comprehensive studies of members harbored by a given species are scarce. Here we present a thorough analysis of KZFP genes and related units in the murine genome. We first identified about twice as many elements than previously annotated as either KZFP genes or pseudogenes, notably by assigning to this family an entity formerly considered as a large group of Satellite repeats. We then could delineate an organization in clusters distributed throughout the genome, with signs of recombination, translocation, duplication and seeding of new sites by retrotransposition of KZFP genes and related genetic units (KZFP/rGUs). Moreover, we harvested evidence indicating that closely related paralogs had evolved through both drifting and shifting of sequences encoding for zinc finger arrays. Finally, we could demonstrate that the KAP1-SETDB1 repressor complex tames the expression of KZFP/rGUs within clusters, yet that the primary targets of this regulation are not the KZFP/rGUs themselves but enhancers contained in neighboring endogenous retroelements and that, underneath, KZFPs conserve highly individualized patterns of expression.

Related material