We previously described paralogous human genes {NUDT10 and NUDT11 [where NUDT is (nucleoside diphosphate attached moiety ‘X’)-type motif, also known as the ‘nudix’-type motif]} encoding type 3 diphosphoinositol polyphosphate phosphohydrolases (DIPP3) [Hidaka, Caffrey, Hua, Zhang, Falck, Nickel, Carrel, Barnes and Shears (2002) J. Biol. Chem. 277, 32730–32738]. Normally, gene duplication is redundant, and lacks biological significance. Is this true for the DIPP3 genes? We address this question by characterizing highly-conserved murine Nudt10 and Nudt11 homologues of the human genes. Thus these genes must have been duplicated prior to the divergence of primates and sciurognath rodents, approx. 115 million years ago, greatly exceeding the 4 million year half-life for inactivation of redundant paralogues; our data therefore indicate that the DIPP3 duplication is unusual in being physiologically significant. One possible functional consequence is gene neofunctionalization, but we exclude that, since Nudt10 and Nudt11 encode identical proteins. Another possibility is gene subfunctionalization, which we studied by conducting the first quantitative expression analysis of these genes. We demonstrated high Nudt10 expression in liver, kidney and testis; Nudt11 expression is primarily restricted to the brain. This differential, but complementary, expression pattern indicates that subfunctionalization is the evolutionary consequence of DIPP3 gene duplication. Our kinetic data argue that diphosphoinositol polyphosphates are more physiologically relevant substrates for DIPP3 than are either diadenosine hexaphosphate or 5-phosphoribosyl 1-pyrophosphate. Thus the significance of the Nudt10/Nudt11 duplication is specific hydrolysis of diphosphoinositol polyphosphates in a tissue-dependent manner.

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