The Nuclear Factor I (NFI) family of DNA-binding proteins is essential for adenovirus DNA replication and the transcription of many cellular genes. Mammals have four genes encoding NFI proteins, C. elegans has only a single NFI gene, and prokaryotes have none. To assess the relationship between members of this unusually small family of transcription/replication factors, we mapped the chromosomal locations of the four murine NFI genes and analyzed the exons encoding the DNA-binding domains of the mouse, Amphioxus, and C. elegans NFI genes. The four murine NFI genes are on Chrs 4 (Nfia and Nfib), 8 (Nfix), and 10 (Nfic), suggesting early duplication of the genes and dispersal throughout the genome. The DNA-binding domains of all four NFI genes are encoded by large (532 bp) exons with identical splice acceptor and donor sites in each. In contrast, the C. elegans nfi-1 gene has four phased introns interrupting this DNA-binding, domain-encoding exon, and the last exon extends 213 bp past the splice site used in all four murine genes. In addition, the introns present in C. elegans nfi-1 are missing from the NFI genes of Amphioxus and all mammalian genomes examined. This analysis of the exon structure of the C. elegans and murine NFI genes indicates that the murine genes were probably generated by duplication of a C. elegans-like ancestral gene, but that significant changes have occurred in the genomic organization of either the C. elegans or murine NFI genes during evolution.
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