Lineage-specific transposons drove massive gene expression recruitments during the evolution of pregnancy in mammals
Vincent J. Lynch, Mauris Nnamani, Kathryn J. Brayer, Deena Emera, Joel O. Wertheim, Sergei L. Kosakovsky Pond, Frank Grützner, Stefan Bauersachs, Alexander Graf, Aurélie Kapusta, Cédric Feschotte, Günter P. Wagner
(Submitted on 22 Aug 2012)
A major challenge in biology is explaining how novel characters originate, however, the molecular mechanisms that underlie the emergence of evolutionary innovations are unclear. Here we show that while gene expression in the uterus evolves at a slow and relatively constant rate, it has been punctuated by periods of rapid change associated with the recruitment of thousands of genes into uterine expression during the evolution of pregnancy in mammals. We found that numerous genes and signaling pathways essential for the establishment of pregnancy and maternal-fetal communication evolved uterine expression in mammals. Remarkably the majority of genes recruited into endometrial expression have cis-regulatory elements derived from lineage-specific transposons, suggesting that that bursts of transposition facilitate adaptation and speciation through genomic and regulatory reorganization.