Genes that escape X-inactivation in humans have high intraspecific variability in expression, are associated with mental impairment but are not slow evolving.

Y. Zhang, Atahualpa Castillo Morales, M. Jiang, Y. Zhu, L. Hu, A. O. Urrutia, X. Kong, L. D. Hurst

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In female mammals most X-linked genes are subject to X-inactivation. However, in humans some X-linked genes escape silencing, these escapees being candidates for the phenotypic aberrations seen in polyX karyotypes. These escape genes have been reported to be under stronger purifying selection than
other X-linked genes. While it is known that escape from X-inactivation is much more common in humans than in mice, systematic assays of escape in humans have to date employed only interspecies somatic cell hybrids. Here we provide the first systematic Next Generation Sequencing analysis of escape in a human cell line. We analyzed RNA and genotype sequencing data obtained from B lymphocyte cell lines derived from Europeans (CEU) and Yorubans (YRI). By replicated detection of heterozygosis in the transcriptome we identified 114 escaping genes, including 76 not previously known to be escapees. The
newly described escape genes cluster on the X chromosome in the same chromosomal regions as the previously known escapees. There is an excess of escaping genes associated with mental retardation, consistent with this being a common phenotype of polyX phenotypes. We find both differences between
populations and between individuals in the propensity to escape. Indeed, we provide the first evidence for there being both hyper- and hypo-escapee females in the human population, consistent with the highly variable phenotypic presentation of polyX karyotypes. Considering also prior data we reclassify genes as being always, never and sometimes escape genes. We fail to replicate the prior claim that genes that escape X-inactivation are under stronger purifying selection than others.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2588-2601
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


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