Characterization of the genomic Xist locus in rodents reveals conservation of overall gene structure and tandem repeats but rapid evolution of unique sequence.
Nesterova TB., Slobodyanyuk SY., Elisaphenko EA., Shevchenko AI., Johnston C., Pavlova ME., Rogozin IB., Kolesnikov NN., Brockdorff N., Zakian SM.
The Xist locus plays a central role in the regulation of X chromosome inactivation in mammals, although its exact mode of action remains to be elucidated. Evolutionary studies are important in identifying conserved genomic regions and defining their possible function. Here we report cloning, sequence analysis, and detailed characterization of the Xist gene from four closely related species of common vole (field mouse), Microtus arvalis. Our analysis reveals that there is overall conservation of Xist gene structure both between different vole species and relative to mouse and human Xist/XIST. Within transcribed sequence, there is significant conservation over five short regions of unique sequence and also over Xist-specific tandem repeats. The majority of unique sequences, however, are evolving at an unexpectedly high rate. This is also evident from analysis of flanking sequences, which reveals a very high rate of rearrangement and invasion of dispersed repeats. We discuss these results in the context of Xist gene function and evolution.