Predicting mammalian SINE subfamily activity from A-tail length.
ABSTRACT Based on previous observations that newly inserted LINEs and SINEs have particularly long 3' A-tails, which shorten rapidly during evolutionary time, we have analyzed the rat and mouse genomes for evidence of recently inserted SINEs and LINEs. We find that the youngest predicted subfamilies of rodent identifier (ID) elements, a rodent-specific SINE derived from tRNA(Ala), are preferentially associated with A-tails over 50 bases in the rat genome, as predicted. Furthermore, these studies detected a subfamily of ID elements that has made over 15,000 copies that is younger than any previously reported ID subfamily. We use PCR analysis of genomic loci to demonstrate that all subfamily members tested inserted after the divergence of Rattus norvegicus from Rattus rattus. We also found evidence that the rodent B1 family of elements is much more active currently in mouse than in rat. These data provide useful estimates of recent activity from all of the mammalian retrotransposons, as well as allowing identification of the most recent insertions for use as population and speciation markers in those species. Both the current rat ID and mouse B1 elements that are active have small, specific interruptions in their 3' A-tail sequences. We suggest that these interruptions stabilize the length of the A-tails and contribute to the activity of these subfamilies. We present a model in which the dynamics of the 3' A-tail may be a central controlling factor in SINE activity.