Ongoing loss of the tirant transposable element in natural populations of Drosophila simulans.
ABSTRACT Tirant is a long terminal repeat (LTR) retrotransposon with an average of 11 insertion sites on the chromosome arms of Drosophila melanogaster flies collected from natural populations worldwide. In the sibling species Drosophila simulans, tirant is found only in African populations, which harbor a few insertion sites (1 to 5) on the chromosome arms, although some tirant sequences are present in the heterochromatin of most populations. This distribution in D. simulans reflects either the recent genomic invasion of African populations by a new variant of tirant, or a loss of tirant from the entire species apart from some sequence relics still present in Africa. In an attempt to clarify the situation, we focused on the LTR-UTR region of tirant copies from various populations of both D. melanogaster and D. simulans. We found two distinct types of regulatory region: one type was present in both D. melanogaster and D. simulans, and the other was present only in D. simulans. Copies of this latter type of tirant were transcriptionally inactive in gonads. Here we propose that the present day distribution of tirant in D. simulans populations reflects an ancient invasion of D. simulans by tirant copies followed by the loss of active copies from most populations, apart from the African ones, suggesting that this loss is still ongoing in this species.
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ABSTRACT: Transposable elements (TEs) are major players in evolution. We know that they play an essential role in genome size determination, but we still have an incomplete understanding of the processes involved in their amplification and elimination from genomes and populations. Taking advantage of differences in the amount and distribution of the Long Interspersed Nuclear Element (LINE), helena in Drosophila melanogaster and D. simulans, we analyzed the DNA sequences of copies of this element in samples of various natural populations of these two species. In situ hybridization experiments revealed that helena is absent from the chromosome arms of D. melanogaster, while it is present in the chromosome arms of D. simulans, which is an unusual feature for a TE in these species. Molecular analyses showed that the helena sequences detected in D. melanogaster were all deleted copies, which diverged from the canonical element. Natural populations of D. simulans have several copies, a few of them full-length, but most of them internally deleted. Overall, our data suggest that a mechanism that induces internal deletions in the helena sequences is active in the D. simulans genome.BMC Genomics 02/2008; 9:149. · 4.07 Impact Factor