Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Evolutionary Biology and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Pseudogenes as an alternative source of natural antisense transcripts

Enrique M Muro* and Miguel A Andrade-Navarro

Author Affiliations

Max-Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine. Robert Rössle Str, 10. 13125 Berlin, Germany

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Evolutionary Biology 2010, 10:338  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-10-338

Published: 3 November 2010



Naturally occurring antisense transcripts (NATs) are non-coding RNAs that may regulate the activity of sense transcripts to which they bind because of complementarity. NATs that are not located in the gene they regulate (trans-NATs) have better chances to evolve than cis-NATs, which is evident when the sense strand of the cis-NAT is part of a protein coding gene. However, the generation of a trans-NAT requires the formation of a relatively large region of complementarity to the gene it regulates.


Pseudogene formation may be one evolutionary mechanism that generates trans-NATs to the parental gene. For example, this could occur if the parental gene is regulated by a cis-NAT that is copied as a trans-NAT in the pseudogene. To support this we identified human pseudogenes with a trans-NAT to the parental gene in their antisense strand by analysis of the database of expressed sequence tags (ESTs). We found that the mutations that appeared in these trans-NATs after the pseudogene formation do not show the flat distribution that would be expected in a non functional transcript. Instead, we found higher similarity to the parental gene in a region nearby the 3' end of the trans-NATs.


Our results do not imply a functional relation of the trans-NAT arising from pseudogenes over their respective parental genes but add evidence for it and stress the importance of duplication mechanisms of genetic material in the generation of non-coding RNAs. We also provide a plausible explanation for the large transcripts that can be found in the antisense strand of some pseudogenes.