Evolutionary Origins of Pseudogenes and Their Association with Regulatory Sequences in Plants

Plant Cell. 2019 Mar;31(3):563-578. doi: 10.1105/tpc.18.00601. Epub 2019 Feb 13.


Pseudogenes (Ψs), nonfunctional relatives of functional genes, form by duplication or retrotransposition, and loss of gene function by disabling mutations. Evolutionary analysis provides clues to Ψ origins and effects on gene regulation. However, few systematic studies of plant Ψs have been conducted, hampering comparative analyses. Here, we examined the origin, evolution, and expression patterns of Ψs and their relationships with noncoding sequences in seven angiosperm plants. We identified ∼250,000 Ψs, most of which are more lineage specific than protein-coding genes. The distribution of Ψs on the chromosome indicates that genome recombination may contribute to Ψ elimination. Most Ψs evolve rapidly in terms of sequence and expression levels, showing tissue- or stage-specific expression patterns. We found that a surprisingly large fraction of nontransposable element regulatory noncoding RNAs (microRNAs and long noncoding RNAs) originate from transcription of Ψ proximal upstream regions. We also found that transcription factor binding sites preferentially occur in putative Ψ proximal upstream regions compared with random intergenic regions, suggesting that Ψs have conditioned genome evolution by providing transcription factor binding sites that serve as promoters and enhancers. We therefore propose that rapid rewiring of Ψ transcriptional regulatory regions is a major mechanism driving the origin of novel regulatory modules.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • DNA, Intergenic / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genome, Plant / genetics*
  • Genomics
  • Magnoliopsida / genetics*
  • Mutation
  • Pseudogenes / genetics*
  • RNA, Long Noncoding / genetics
  • RNA, Untranslated / genetics
  • Recombination, Genetic
  • Regulatory Elements, Transcriptional / genetics*


  • DNA, Intergenic
  • RNA, Long Noncoding
  • RNA, Untranslated