Evolutionary history and genome organization of DUF1220 protein domains.
DUF1220 protein domains exhibit the most extreme human lineage-specific (HLS) copy number increase of any protein coding region in the human genome and have recently been linked to evolutionary and pathological changes in brain size (e.g., 1q21-associated microcephaly). These findings lend support to the view that DUF1220 domain dosage is a key factor in the determination of primate (and human) brain size. Here we analyze 41 animal genomes and present the most complete account to date of the evolutionary history and genome organization of DUF1220 domains and the gene family that encodes them (NBPF). Included among the novel features identified by this analysis is a DUF1220 domain precursor in nonmammalian vertebrates, a unique predicted promoter common to all mammalian NBPF genes, six distinct clades into which DUF1220 sequences can be subdivided, and a previously unknown member of the NBPF gene family (NBPF25). Most importantly, we show that the exceptional HLS increase in DUF1220 copy number (from 102 in our last common ancestor with chimp to 272 in human; an average HLS increase of ~28 copies every million years since the Homo/Pan split) was driven by intragenic domain hyperamplification. This increase primarily involved a 4.7 kb, tandemly repeated three DUF1220 domain unit we have named the HLS DUF1220 triplet, a motif that is a likely candidate to underlie key properties unique to the Homo sapiens brain. Interestingly, all copies of the HLS DUF1220 triplet lie within a human-specific pericentric inversion that also includes the 1q12 C-band, a polymorphic heterochromatin expansion that is unique to the human genome. Both cytogenetic features likely played key roles in the rapid HLS DUF1220 triplet hyperamplification, which is among the most striking genomic changes specific to the human lineage.