Burst of Young Retrogenes and Independent Retrogene Formation in Mammals

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Retroposition and retrogenes gain increasing attention as recent studies show that they play an important role in human new gene formation. Here we examined the patterns of retrogene distribution in 8 mammalian genomes using 4 non-mammalian genomes as a contrast. There has been a burst of young retrogenes not only in primate lineages as suggested in a recent study, but also in other mammalian lineages. In mammals, most of the retrofamilies (the gene families that have retrogenes) are shared between species. In these shared retrofamilies, 14%–18% of functional retrogenes may have originated independently in multiple mammalian species. Notably, in the independently originated retrogenes, there is an enrichment of ribosome related gene function. In sharp contrast, none of these patterns hold in non-mammals. Our results suggest that the recruitment of the specific L1 retrotransposons in mammals might have been an important evolutionary event for the split of mammals and non-mammals and retroposition continues to be an important active process in shaping the dynamics of mammalian genomes, as compared to being rather inert in non-mammals.