Self-promotion yes, but still a cool story (we think):
In a new paper, which appeared on October 16 in Advance Access for Molecular Biology and Evolution, we show that two different sources of normally selfish pogo-like transposases were recruited independently in the lineages of fission yeast (S. pombe) and mammals to give rise to centromere-binding proteins with important cellular functions. We call this a case of 'convergent transposase domestication'.
It is a case of convergent evolution in the sense that very similar transposases have given rise (at least) twice independently, and in separate evolutionary lineages, to proteins that bind specifically to the centromeric regions of their respective host chromosomes. Now, it is important to emphasize that the two sets of proteins (there are three in fission yeast, but only one in mammals called CENP-B) may still perform distinct functions at the centromeres. We can't answer that question yet. The chromosomal function of the 3 proteins of S. pombe is relatively well understood, but the role of mammalian CENP-B in chromosome segregation remains unclear, and even controversial. Peter Warburton has several nice review papers on the topic. We are now collaborating with Peter's lab to see if any of the many other pogo transposases domesticated in mammals have centromere-binding activity.
Congrats to Claudio and Don for their equally outstanding contribution to the study! And double congrats to Don for his first paper! The preprint can be found here.
Cool chromosome art by Alisa Poh [buy it].