A transcribed pseudogene of MYLK promotes cell proliferation

Yoo Jeong Han, Shwu Fan Ma, Gregory Yourek, Yoon Dong Park, Joe G.N. Garcia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Pseudogenes are considered nonfunctional genomic artifacts of catastrophic pathways. Recent evidence, however, indicates novel roles for pseudogenes as regulators of gene expression. We tested the functionality of myosin light chain kinase pseudogene (MYLKP1) in human cells and tissues by RT-PCR, promoter activity, and cell proliferation assays. MYLKP1 is partially duplicated from the original MYLK gene that encodes nonmuscle and smooth muscle myosin light chain kinase (smMLCK) isoforms and regulates cell contractility and cytokinesis. Despite strong homology with the smMLCK promoter (∼89.9%), the MYLKP1 promoter is minimally active in normal bronchial epithelial cells but highly active in lung adenocarcinoma cells. Moreover, MYLKP1 and smMLCK exhibit negatively correlated transcriptional patterns in normal and cancer cells with MYLKP1 strongly expressed in cancer cells and smMLCK highly expressed in non-neoplastic cells. For instance, expression of smMLCK decreased (19.5±4.7 fold) in colon carcinoma tissues compared to normal colon tissues. Mechanistically, MYLKP1 overexpression inhibits smMLCK expression in cancer cells by decreasing RNA stability, leading to increased cell proliferation. These studies provide strong evidence for the functional involvement of pseudogenes in carcinogenesis and suggest MYLKP1 as a potential novel diagnostic or therapeutic target in human cancers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2305-2312
Number of pages8
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • Gene duplication
  • Human cancers
  • Myosin light chain kinase
  • RNA stability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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