Paul P. Gardner , Mario Fasold, Sarah W. Burge, Maria Ninova, Jana Hertel, Stephanie Kehr, Tammy E. Steeves, Sam Griffiths-Jones and Peter F. Stadlery, 'Conservation and Losses of Non-Coding RNAs in Avian Genomes', PLoS One. (2015).
Here we present the results of a large-scale bioinformatics annotation of non-coding RNA loci in 48 avian genomes. Our approach uses probabilistic models of hand-curated families from the Rfam database to infer conserved RNA families within each avian genome. We supplement these annotations with predictions from the tRNA annotation tool, tRNAscan-SE and microRNAs from miRBase. We identify 34 lncRNA-associated loci that are conserved between birds and mammals and validate 12 of these in chicken. We report several intriguing cases where a reported mammalian lncRNA, but not its function, is conserved. We also demonstrate extensive conservation of classical ncRNAs (e.g., tRNAs) and more recently discovered ncRNAs (e.g., snoRNAs and miRNAs) in birds. Furthermore, we describe numerous “losses” of several RNA families, and attribute these to either genuine loss, divergence or missing data. In particular, we show that many of these losses are due to the challenges associated with assembling avian microchromosomes. These combined results illustrate the utility of applying homology-based methods for annotating novel vertebrate genomes.