Epigenetic Coactivation of MAGEA6 and CT-GABRA3 Defines Orientation of a Segmental Duplication in the Human X Chromosome

Cytogenet Genome Res. 2019;159(1):12-18. doi: 10.1159/000502933. Epub 2019 Oct 9.


The human genome harbors many duplicated segments, which sometimes show very high sequence identity. This may complicate assignment during genome assembly. One such example is in Xq28, where the arrangement of 2 recently duplicated segments varies between genome assembly versions. The duplicated segments comprise highly similar genes, including MAGEA3 and MAGEA6, which display specific expression in testicular germline cells, and also become aberrantly activated in a variety of tumors. Recently, a new gene was identified, CT-GABRA3, the transcription of which initiates inside the segmental duplication but extends far outside. According to the latest genome annotation, CT- GABRA3 starts near MAGEA3, with which it shares a bidirectional promoter. In an earlier annotation, however, the duplicated segment was positioned in the opposite orientation, and CT-GABRA3 was instead coupled with MAGEA6. To resolve this discrepancy, and based on the contention that genes connected by a bidirectional promoter are almost always co-expressed, we decided to compare the expression profiles of CT-GABRA3, MAGEA3, and MAGEA6. We found that in tumor tissues and cell lines of different origins, the expression of CT-GABRA3 was better correlated with that of MAGEA6. Moreover, in a cellular model of experimental induction with a DNA demethylation agent, activation CT-GABRA3 was associated with that of MAGEA6, but not with that of MAGEA3. Together these results support a connection between CT-GABRA3 and MAGEA6 and illustrate how promoter-sharing genes can be exploited to resolve genome assembly uncertainties.

Keywords: MAGEA3; MAGEA6; Bidirectional promoter; Cancer-germline genes; Genome misassembly; Segmental duplication.

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Neoplasm / genetics*
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / metabolism
  • Chromosomes, Human, X / genetics*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / genetics
  • Gene Duplication / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Genome, Human / genetics
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Proteins / genetics*
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics*
  • Receptors, GABA-A / genetics*
  • Segmental Duplications, Genomic / genetics*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • GABRA3 protein, human
  • MAGEA3 protein, human
  • MAGEA6 protein, human
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Receptors, GABA-A