A complex pattern of evolutionary conservation and alternative polyadenylation within the long 3"-untranslated region of the methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 gene (MeCP2) suggests a regulatory role in gene expression.
Coy, JF Sedlacek, Z Bachner, D Delius, H Poustka, A
A systematic search for expressed sequences in the human Xq28 region resulted in the isolation of 8.5 kb large contigs of human and murine cDNAs with no apparent conserved open reading frames. These cDNAs were found to be derived from the 3"-untranslated region (3"-UTR) of the methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 gene ( MeCP2 ). This long 3"-UTR is part of an alternatively polyadenylated, 10.1 kb MeCP2 transcript which is differentially expressed in human brain and other tissues. RNA in situ hybridization to sections of mouse embryo and adult tissues of an Mecp2 3"-UTR probe showed ubiquitous low level expression in early organogenesis and enhanced expression in the hippocampus during formation of the differentiated brain. Sequence comparison between the human and mouse homologues revealed several blocks of very high conservation separated by less conserved sequences. Additional support for a domain-like conservation pattern of the long 3"-UTR of the MeCP2 gene was obtained by examining conservation in the chimpanzee, orangutan, macaque, hamster, rat and kangaroo. The minimum free energy distribution for the predicted RNA secondary structure was very similar in human and mouse sequences. In particular, the conserved blocks were predicted to be of high minimum free energy, which suggests weak secondary structure with respect to RNA folding. The fact that both the sequence and predicted secondary structure have been highly conserved during evolution suggests that both the primary sequence and the three-dimensional structure of the 3"-UTR may be important for its function in post-transcriptional regulation of MeCP2 expression.