Letter | Published:

Amplification and rearrangement of onc genes in mammalian species

Abstract

Related eukaryotic species usually contain the same number of copies per cell of a given ‘unique sequence’ gene. In the few described exceptions, such as the preproinsulin1,2 and globin genes3–7, one or two additional copies per cell have been found in several related species, suggesting that germ-line amplification occurred millions of years ago in a common progenitor of these species. The transforming (onc) genes of retroviruses are a group of evolutionarily conserved genes for which at least 10 distinct members have been described (for a review see ref. 8). Sequences related to each onc have been identified in all vertebrate species tested, usually as one copy per haploid genome, although the rat has at least two different genes homologous to the onc of the rat-derived Harvey murine sarcoma virus (Ha-MuSV)9. In screening genomic DNA from several rodent species for sequences related to the onc of Ha-MuSV and to the closely related (but distinguishable) onc of Kirsten (Ki) MuSV10, we have now found evidence for relatively recent amplification of these genes. We report here that Mus pahari apparently contains at least 10 copies of Ha-MuSV-type onc, whereas most other Mus species contain only one or two copies. Similarly, Chinese hamsters (Cricetulus iseus) have about six copies of the Ki-MuSV-type onc compared with only one copy in Syrian hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus).

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