Evolutionary conservation of possible functional domains of the human and murine XIST genes.
The human XIST gene, a candidate for a role in X chromosome inactivation, has recently been cloned and sequenced, yielding a 17 kb cDNA with no apparent significant, conserved open reading frame. In addition, the XIST transcript has been localized within the nucleus to the Barr body by RNA in situ hybridization. This subnuclear localization and lack of any significant protein-coding potential suggest that XIST may act as a functional RNA within the nucleus. In the absence of a conserved open reading frame, we have turned to evolutionary studies as a first step toward elucidating a function for XIST in the process of X inactivation. While probes for XIST detect homologues in numerous eutherians, sequence comparisons require significant gapping and reveal identity levels intermediate between those seen for coding and non-coding regions in other genes. Further, sequence comparison of the most likely candidate open reading frame among several primate species reveals sequence changes not normally associated with protein-coding regions. Other features of XIST are conserved in different species, however, including the position of a major transcription start site and active X chromosome-specific DNA methylation patterns at the gene's 5' end. Finally, a possible molecular basis for differing propensity toward X inactivation between Xce alleles in mouse is investigated by comparing the sequence of the Xist conserved 5' repeats in mouse strains carrying different Xce alleles.
Hendrich, BD; Brown, CJ; Willard, HF
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