Title page for ETD etd-04072010-175854

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Faulk, Christopher Don
URN etd-04072010-175854
Title Evolution of YY1, YY2, REX1 and DNA-binding Motifs in Vertebrate Genomes
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Biological Sciences
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Kim, Joomyeong Committee Chair
Batzer, Mark Committee Member
Donze, David Committee Member
Whitehead, Andrew Committee Member
Yoshimura, Masami Dean's Representative
  • olfactory receptors
  • genomics
  • protein evolution
Date of Defense 2010-03-08
Availability unrestricted
Transcription factors are important for many aspects of gene regulation in eukaryotes. YY1 (Yin-Yang 1) is a particularly interesting example of a highly conserved zinc-finger transcription factor, involved in transcriptional activation, repression, initiation, and in chromatin modification. YY1 is ubiquitously expressed in mammals, and its binding sites are found in ~10% of human genes as well as in repetitive elements. It is a targeting protein of the Polycomb complex and is involved in mammalian genomic imprinting.

First, we explored the evolutionary history of YY1 using 62 species and formation of its paralogs, YY2 and REX1, which are found in mammals, and Pho and Phol, which are found in Drosophila. We confirmed the specificity of the consensus YY1 binding site and the differences of the target binding motifs of YY2 and REX1 which are reflected in their amino acid sequences. We found that the core motif, CCAT, is conserved for all three homologs and that YY2 and REX1 were produced via retrotransposition events early in the mammalian lineage.

Second, we identified unusual clusters of YY1-binding motifs found in the coding regions of olfactory receptor genes (OLFRs) in mammals but not in fish. Olfactory genes provide scent detection and are the largest class of genes in mammals. Statistical analysis indicates that the core of the YY1-binding motifs cannot be acounted for by conserved amino acid motifs or overall protein homology. Thus selection has acted at the DNA level rather than at the protein level in preserving these YY1-binding sites within coding regions. Therefore, YY1 is likely to play a crucial role in regulating the expression of OLFRs.

Third, we produced a new method of microarray data analysis predicated on the positions of genes along a chromosome as well as their expression levels. This technique is supplementary to traditional microarray data analysis and adds a new dimension to finding target genes of interest by looking for co-regulation.

Overall, this work provides a coherent background to the evolution of YY1 and its homologs. It provides strong evidence that coding sequences of genes can encode information both at the DNA level and the protein level.

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