Featured projects (1)
Understand a little piece of the evolutionary history of mobile elements and how they survived in extant genomes, with special attention to horizontal transposon transfer. Develop molecular genetics tools from transposable elements or part of them.
Featured research (19)
Transposable elements (TEs) have been historically depicted as detrimental genetic entities that selfishly aim at perpetuating themselves, invading genomes, and destroying genes. Scientists often co-opt “special” TEs to develop new and powerful genetic tools, that will hopefully aid in changing the future of the human being. However, many TEs are gentle, rarely unleash themselves to harm the genome, and bashfully contribute to generating diversity and novelty in the genomes they have colonized, yet they offer the opportunity to develop new molecular tools. In this review we summarize 30 years of research focused on the Bari transposons. Bari is a “normal” transposon family that has colonized the genomes of several Drosophila species and introduced genomic novelties in the melanogaster species. We discuss how these results have contributed to advance the field of TE research and what future studies can still add to the current knowledge.
Chromatin is a highly dynamic biological entity that allows for both the control of gene expression and the stabilization of chromosomal domains. Given the high degree of plasticity observed in model and non-model organisms, it is not surprising that new chromatin components are frequently described. In this work, we tested the hypothesis that the remnants of the Doc5 transposable element, which retains a heterochromatin insertion pattern in the melanogaster species complex, can be bound by chromatin proteins, and thus be involved in the organization of heterochromatic domains. Using the Yeast One Hybrid approach, we found Rpl22 as a potential interacting protein of Doc5. We further tested in vitro the observed interaction through Electrophoretic Mobility Shift Assay, uncovering that the N-terminal portion of the protein is sufficient to interact with Doc5. However, in situ localization of the native protein failed to detect Rpl22 association with chromatin. The results obtained are discussed in the light of the current knowledge on the extra-ribosomal role of ribosomal protein in eukaryotes, which suggests a possible role of Rpl22 in the determination of the heterochromatin in Drosophila.
Expression vectors (EVs) are artificial nucleic acid molecules with a modular structure that allows for the transcription of DNA sequences of interest in either cellular or cell-free environments. These vectors have emerged as cross-disciplinary tools with multiple applications in an expanding Life Sciences market. The cis-regulatory sequences (CRSs) that control the transcription in EVs are typically sourced from either viruses or from characterized genes. However, the recent advancement in transposable elements (TEs) technology provides attractive alternatives that may enable a significant improvement in the design of EVs. Commonly known as "jumping genes," due to their ability to move between genetic loci, TEs are constitutive components of both eukaryotic and prokaryotic genomes. TEs harbor native CRSs that allow the regulated transcription of transposition-related genes. However, some TE-related CRSs display striking characteristics, which provides the opportunity to reconsider TEs as lead actors in the design of EVs. In this article, we provide a synopsis of the transcriptional control elements commonly found in EVs together with an extensive discussion of their advantages and limitations. We also highlight the latest findings that may allow for the implementation of TE-derived sequences in the EVs feasible, possibly improving existing vectors. By introducing this new concept of TEs as a source of regulatory sequences, we aim to stimulate a profitable discussion of the potential advantages and benefits of developing a new generation of EVs based on the use of TE-derived control sequences.
The number of reports concerning horizontal transposon transfers (HTT) in metazoan species is considerably increased, alongside with the exponential growth of genomic sequence data However, our understanding of the mechanisms of such phenomenon is still at an early stage. Nematodes constitute an animal phylum successfully adapted to almost every ecosystem and for this reason could potentially contribute to spreading the genetic information through horizontal transfer. To date, few studies describe HTT of nematode retrotransposons. This is due to the lack of annotation of transposable elements in the sequenced nematode genomes, especially DNA transposons, which are acknowledged as the best horizontal travelers among mobile sequences. We have therefore started a survey of DNA transposons and their possible involvement in HTT in sequenced nematode genomes. Here, we describe 83 new Tc1/mariner elements distributed in 17 nematode species. Among them, nine families were possibly horizontally transferred between nematodes and the most diverse animal species, including ants as preferred partner of HTT. The results obtained suggest that HTT events involving nematodes Tc1/mariner elements are not uncommon, and that nematodes could have a possible role as transposon reservoir that, in turn, can be redistributed among animal genomes. Overall, this could be relevant to understand how the inter-species genetic flows shape the landscape of genetic variation of organisms inhabiting specific environmental communities.
Background In man two mitochondrial aspartate/glutamate carrier (AGC) isoforms, known as aralar and citrin, are required to accomplish several metabolic pathways. In order to fill the existing gap of knowledge in Drosophila melanogaster, we have studied aralar1 gene, orthologue of human AGC-encoding genes in this organism. Methods The blastp algorithm and the “reciprocal best hit” approach have been used to identify the human orthologue of AGCs in Drosophilidae and non-Drosophilidae. Aralar1 proteins have been overexpressed in Escherichia coli and functionally reconstituted in liposomes for transport assays. Results The transcriptional organization of aralar1 comprises six isoforms, three constitutively expressed (aralar1-RA, RD and RF), and the remaining three distributed during the development or in different tissues (aralar1-RB, RC and RE). Aralar1-PA and Aralar1-PE, representative of all isoforms, have been biochemically characterized. Recombinant Aralar1-PA and Aralar1-PE proteins share similar efficiency to exchange glutamate against aspartate, and same substrate affinities than the human isoforms. Interestingly, although Aralar1-PA and Aralar1-PE diverge only in their EF-hand 8, they greatly differ in their specific activities and substrate specificity. Conclusions The tight regulation of aralar1 transcripts expression and the high request of aspartate and glutamate during early embryogenesis suggest a crucial role of Aralar1 in this Drosophila developmental stage. Furthermore, biochemical characterization and calcium sensitivity have identified Aralar1-PA and Aralar1-PE as the human aralar and citrin counterparts, respectively. General significance The functional characterization of the fruit fly mitochondrial AGC transporter represents a crucial step toward a complete understanding of the metabolic events acting during early embryogenesis.