Evolution of microRNA biogenesis genes in the sterlet (Acipenser ruthenus) and other polyploid vertebrates

Mikhail V. Fofanov, Dmitry Yu Prokopov, Heiner Kuhl, Manfred Schartl, Vladimir A. Trifonov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


MicroRNAs play a crucial role in eukaryotic gene regulation. For a long time, only little was known about microRNA-based gene regulatory mechanisms in polyploid animal genomes due to difficulties of polyploid genome assembly. However, in recent years, several polyploid genomes of fish, amphibian, and even invertebrate species have been sequenced and assembled. Here we investigated several key microRNA-associated genes in the recently sequenced sterlet (Acipenser ruthenus) genome, whose lineage has undergone a whole genome duplication around 180 MYA. We show that two paralogs of drosha, dgcr8, xpo1, and xpo5 as well as most ago genes have been retained after the acipenserid-specific whole genome duplication, while ago1 and ago3 genes have lost one paralog. While most diploid vertebrates possess only a single copy of dicer1, we strikingly found four paralogs of this gene in the sterlet genome, derived from a tandem segmental duplication that occurred prior to the last whole genome duplication. ago1,3,4 and exportins1,5 look to be prone to additional segment duplications producing up to four-five paralog copies in ray-finned fishes. We demonstrate for the first time exon microsatellite amplification in the acipenserid drosha2 gene, resulting in a highly variable protein product, which may indicate sub-or neofunctionalization. Paralogous copies of most microRNA metabolism genes exhibit different expression profiles in various tissues and remain functional despite the rediploidization process. Subfunctionalization of microRNA processing gene paralogs may be beneficial for different pathways of microRNA metabolism. Genetic variability of microRNA processing genes may represent a substrate for natural selection, and, by increasing genetic plasticity, could facilitate adaptations to changing environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9562
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2020


  • Gene duplications
  • MicroRNA
  • Sturgeon
  • Whole genome duplication


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