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Mammalian APeg3 is an antisense gene that is localized within the 3'-untranslated region of the imprinted gene, Peg3. APeg3 is expressed only in the vasopressinergic neurons of the hypothalamus, thus is predicted to play significant roles in this specific area of the brain. In the current study, we investigate the functions of APeg3 with comparative genomics and cell line-based functional approaches. The transcribed region of APeg3 displays high levels of sequence conservation among placental mammals, but without any obvious open reading frame, suggesting that APeg3 may have been selected as a ncRNA gene during eutherian evolution. This has been further supported by the detection of a conserved local RNA secondary structure within APeg3. RNA secondary structure analyses indicate a single conserved hairpin-loop structure towards the 5' end of the transcript. The results from cell line-based transfection experiments demonstrate that APeg3 has the potential to down-regulate the transcription and protein levels of Peg3. The observed down-regulation by APeg3 is also somewhat orientation-independent. Overall, these results suggest that APeg3 has evolved as a ncRNA gene and controls the function of its sense gene Peg3 within specific neuronal cells. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.

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