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Background: Gene copy number variation plays a large role in the evolution of genomes. In Rattus norvegicus and other rodent species, the Y-chromosome has accumulated multiple copies of Sry loci. These copy number variations have been previously linked with changes in phenotype of animal models such as the spontaneously hypertensive rat (SHR). This study characterizes the Y-chromosome in the Sry region of Rattus norvegicus, while addressing functional variations seen in the Sry protein products. Results: Eleven Sry loci have been identified in the SHR with one (nonHMG Sry) containing a frame shift mutation. The nonHMGSry is found and conserved in the related WKY and SD rat strains. Three new, previously unidentified, Sry loci were identified in this study (Sry3BII, Sry4 and Sry4A) in both SHR and WKY. Repetitive element analysis revealed numerous LINE-L1 elements at regions where conservation is lost among the Sry copies. In addition we have identified a retrotransposed copy of Med14 originating from spliced mRNA, two autosomal genes (Ccdc110 and HMGB1) and a normal mammalian Y-chromosome gene (Zfy) in the Sry region of the rat Y-chromosome. Translation of the sequences of each Sry gene reveals eight proteins with amino acid differences leading to changes in nuclear localization and promoter activation of a Sry-responsive gene. Sry-beta (coded by the Sry2 locus) has an increased cytoplasmic fraction due to alterations at amino acid 21. Sry gamma has altered gene regulation of the Sry1 promoter due to changes at amino acid 76. Conclusions: The duplication of Sry on the Rattus norvegicus Y-chromosome has led to proteins with altered functional ability that may have been selected for functions in addition to testis determination. Additionally, several other genes not normally found on the Y-chromosome have duplicated new copies into the region around the Sry genes. These suggest a role of active transposable elements in the evolution of the mammalian Y-chromosome in species such as Rattus norvegicus.

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BMC Genomics






© 2013 Prokop et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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