Glycerol kinase catalyzes the metabolism of endogenously derived and dietary glycerol. GyK is a member of a small group of kinases termed ambiquitous enzymes, which are found either in the cytosol or as membrane-bound complexes associated with the voltage-dependent anion channel of the mitochondrial outer membrane. In Homo sapiens, the GyK gene family consists of an X-encoded locus and several X-linked and autosomal intronless retroposons, which, apparently, comprise both functional genes and processed pseudogenes. To study the role of the autosomal genes in mammalian physiology, we have isolated two murine GyK-like genes, determined their structures and chromosomal locations, and examined their functions. These sequences are intronless retroposons, which appear to be paralogues of the X-encoded, brain-specific GyK isoform and are expressed only in the testes. Though both retrotransposition events appear to have occurred prior to the primate-rodent divergence of some 65-80 million years ago, only one of the retrotransposed murine gene sequences, based upon its chromosomal location, is conserved with modern H. sapiens. To test the hypothesis that the murine GyK-like genes encode functional GyK activity, transient transfection of the gene sequences into COS7 cells was carried out. While in vitro translation confirmed that the transcripts could direct the synthesis of proteins of the appropriate size, no GyK activity was detected. Such data suggest that the autosomal GyK-like genes have evolved novel, testis-specific functions. A comparison of the human and mouse GyK-like gene sequences demonstrates the evolutionary relationships between each autosomal isoform and its corresponding X-linked ancestral locus.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.