Computational identification of novel microRNA homologs in the chimpanzee genome
MicroRNAs are important negative regulators of gene expression in higher eukaryotes. The miRNA repertoire of the closest human animal relative, the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), is largely unknown. In this study, we focused on computational search of novel miRNA homologs in chimpanzee. We have searched and analyzed the chimp homologs of the human pre-miRNA and mature miRNA sequences. Based on a homology search of the chimpanzee genome with human miRNA precursor sequences as queries, we identified 639 chimp miRNA genes, including 529 novel chimp miRNAs. 91.8% of chimp mature miRNAs and 60.3% of precursors are 100% identical to their human orthologs. The pre-miRNA secondary structures, miRNA families, and clusters are also highly conserved. We also found certain sequence differences in pre-miRNAs and even mature miRNAs that occurred after the divergence of the two species. Some of these differences (especially in mature miRNAs) could have caused species-specific changes in the expression levels of their target genes which in turn could have resulted in phenotypic variation between human and chimp.
Journal: Computational Biology and Chemistry - Volume 33, Issue 1, February 2009, Pages 62–70