Recent emergence and extinction of the protection of telomeres 1c gene in Arabidopsis thaliana
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KEY MESSAGE: Duplicate POT1 genes must rapidly diverge or be inactivated. Protection of telomeres 1 (POT1) encodes a conserved telomere binding protein implicated in both chromosome end protection and telomere length maintenance. Most organisms harbor a single POT1 gene, but in the few lineages where the POT1 family has expanded, the duplicate genes have diversified. Arabidopsis thaliana bears three POT1-like loci, POT1a, POT1b and POT1c. POT1a retains the ancestral function of telomerase regulation, while POT1b is implicated in chromosome end protection. Here we examine the function and evolution of the third POT1 paralog, POT1c. POT1c is a new gene, unique to A. thaliana, and was derived from a duplication event involving the POT1a locus and a neighboring gene encoding ribosomal protein S17. The duplicate S17 locus (dS17) is highly conserved across A. thaliana accessions, while POT1c is highly divergent, harboring multiple deletions within the gene body and two transposable elements within the promoter. The POT1c locus is transcribed at very low to non-detectable levels under standard growth conditions. In addition, no discernable molecular or developmental defects are associated with plants bearing a CRISPR mutation in the POT1c locus. However, forced expression of POT1c leads to decreased telomerase enzyme activity and shortened telomeres. Evolutionary reconstruction indicates that transposons invaded the POT1c promoter soon after the locus was formed, permanently silencing the gene. Altogether, these findings argue that POT1 dosage is critically important for viability and duplicate gene copies are retained only upon functional divergence.
author list (cited authors)
Kobayashi, C. R., Castillo-González, C., Survotseva, Y., Canal, E., Nelson, A., & Shippen, D. E.