We recently identified the snaR family of small non-coding RNAs that associate in vivo with the nuclear factor 90 (NF90/ILF3) protein. The major human species, snaR-A, is an RNA polymerase III transcript with restricted tissue distribution and orthologs in chimpanzee but not rhesus macaque or mouse. We report their expression in human tissues and their evolution in primates. snaR genes are exclusively in African Great Apes and some are unique to humans. Two novel families of snaR-related genetic elements were found in primates: CAS (catarrhine ancestor of snaR), limited to Old World Monkeys and apes; and ASR (Alu/snaR-related), present in all monkeys and apes. ASR and CAS appear to have spread by retrotransposition, whereas most snaR genes have spread by segmental duplication. snaR-A and snaR-G2 are differentially expressed in discrete regions of the human brain and other tissues, notably including testis. snaR-A is up-regulated in transformed and immortalized human cells, and is stably bound to ribosomes in HeLa cells. We infer that snaR evolved from the left monomer of the primate-specific Alu SINE family via ASR and CAS in conjunction with major primate speciation events, and suggest that snaRs participate in tissue- and species-specific regulation of cell growth and translation. The Author(s) 2010. Published by Oxford University Press.2010This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.5), which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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