The α-actin gene of channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) was cloned and sequenced. The gene has a similar organization and exhibited a high level of sequence similarity to those from other vertebrate animals. The upstream region of the α-actin gene included a TATA box, a CAAT box, three E-boxes, and a CArG box. Nested deletion segments containing these transcriptional motifs were fused to the reporter gene chloramphenicol acetyl transferase (CAT). Transfection of the clones into C2C12 cells indicated that all these motifs are required for transcriptional activities. The channel catfish α- actin gene is associated with two distinct short interspersed repetitive elements (SINEs). The first SINE element showed high levels of sequence similarity to the zebrafish Mermaid element, while the second SINE element is not similar to the Mermaid element except for an 8bp sequence CCCCGTGC suggesting their evolutionary linkage. However, the second SINE element appeared to co-exist with the Mermaid element in most cases and therefore was designated as the Merman element. Approximately 9000 copies and 1200 copies of the Mermaid and Merman elements exist per haploid channel catfish genome, respectively. BLAST searches indicated that both the Mermaid and the Merman elements were frequently associated with gene sequences, mostly those of aquatic animals, suggesting their evolutionary origin in association with aquatic organisms and their function in shaping the evolution of genomes in aquatic animals.
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