The Pseudogene RPS27AP5 Reveals Novel Ubiquitin and Ribosomal Protein Variants Involved in Specialised Ribosomal Functions

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Pseudogenes, traditionally considered non-functional gene copies resulting from evolutionary mutations, have garnered attention due to recent transcriptomics and proteomics revealing their unexpected expressions and consequential cellular functions. Ubiquitin, transcribed from UBA52 and RPS27A genes, fused to ribosomal proteins eL40 and eS31, and polyubiquitin precursors encoded by UBB and UBC genes, has additional pseudogenes labeled as non-functional. However, recent evidence challenges this notion, demonstrating that these pseudogenes produce ubiquitin variants with minimal differences from the canonical sequence, suggesting a new regulatory dimension in ubiquitin-mediated cellular processes. To systematically catalogue possible Ubiquitin (Ub) and Ubiquitin-like (Ubl) variants from pseudogenes, expression data was compiled, identifying potential functional variants. Among these pseudogenes, RPS27AP5 expresses both Ubiquitin variant (UbP5) and ribosomal protein variant (S27aP5), with precursor proteins maturing through cleavage and exhibiting behavior similar to their counterparts post-translation. Notably, S27aP5 integrates into translating ribosomes, increasing the 80S monosomal ribosomal fraction and indirectly influencing p16INK4A transcriptional activation. The discovery of a functional S27a pseudogene supports the concept that a subset of ribosomes may incorporate diverse subunits for specific translational functions.

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