Genome Res 2006 Jan 12;16(1):30-6. Epub 2005 Dec 12.
Compugen Ltd., Tel Aviv 69512, Israel.
Transcription of a gene usually ends at a regulated termination point, preventing the RNA-polymerase from reading through the next gene. However, sporadic reports suggest that chimeric transcripts, formed by transcription of two consecutive genes into one RNA, can occur in human. The splicing and translation of such RNAs can lead to a new, fused protein, having domains from both original proteins. Here, we systematically identified over 200 cases of intergenic splicing in the human genome (involving 421 genes), and experimentally demonstrated that at least half of these fusions exist in human tissues. We showed that unique splicing patterns dominate the functional and regulatory nature of the resulting transcripts, and found intergenic distance bias in fused compared with nonfused genes. We demonstrate that the hundreds of fused genes we identified are only a subset of the actual number of fused genes in human. We describe a novel evolutionary mechanism where transcription-induced chimerism followed by retroposition results in a new, active fused gene. Finally, we provide evidence that transcription-induced chimerism can be a mechanism contributing to the evolution of protein complexes.