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Recurrent evolution of vertebrate transcription factors by transposase capture.

By Rachel L. Cosby, Julius Judd, Ruiling Zhang, Alan Zhong, Nathaniel Garry, Ellen J. Pritham, Cédric Feschotte

Posted 07 May 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.05.07.082677

How genes with novel cellular functions evolve is a central biological question. Exon shuffling is one mechanism to assemble new protein architectures. Here we show that DNA transposons, which are mobile and pervasive in genomes, have provided a recurrent supply of exons and splice sites to assemble protein-coding genes in vertebrates via exon-shuffling. We find that transposase domains have been captured, primarily via alternative splicing, to form new fusion proteins at least 94 times independently over ~350 million years of tetrapod evolution. Evolution favors fusion of transposase DNA-binding domains to host regulatory domains, especially the Krüppel-associated Box (KRAB), suggesting transposase capture frequently yields new transcriptional repressors. We show that four independently evolved KRAB-transposase fusion proteins repress gene expression in a sequence-specific fashion. Genetic knockout and rescue of the bat-specific KRABINER fusion gene in cells demonstrates that it binds its cognate transposons genome-wide and controls a vast network of genes and cis-regulatory elements. These results illustrate a powerful mechanism by which a transcription factor and its dispersed binding sites emerge at once from a transposon family. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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