Project

Transposable elements evolution and applications

Goal: 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.

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14

Project log

Rene' Massimiliano Marsano
added a research item
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.
Rene' Massimiliano Marsano
added 9 research items
A set of 67 novel LTR-retrotransposon has been identified by in silico analyses of the Culex quinquefasciatus genome using the LTR_STRUC program. The phylogenetic analysis shows that 29 novel and putatively functional LTR-retrotransposons detected belong to the Ty3/gypsy group. Our results demonstrate that, by considering only families containing potentially autonomous LTR-retrotransposons, they account for about 1% of the genome of C. quinquefasciatus. In previous studies it has been estimated that 29% of the genome of C. quinquefasciatus is occupied by mobile genetic elements. The potential role of retrotransposon insertions strictly associated with host genes is described and discussed along with the possible origin of a retrotransposon with peculiar Primer Binding Site region. Finally, we report the presence of a group of 38 retrotransposons, carrying tandem repeated sequences but lacking coding potential, and apparently lacking “master copy” elements from which they could have originated. The features of the repetitive sequences found in these non-autonomous LTR retrotransposons are described, and their possible role discussed. These results integrate the existing data on the genomics of an important virus-borne disease vector.
The transposons of the Bari family are mobile genetic elements widespread in the Drosophila genus. However, despite a broad diffusion, virtually no information is available on the mechanisms underlying their mobility. In this paper we report the functional characterization of the Bari elements transposition system. Using the Bari1 element as a model, we investigated the subcellular localization of the transposase, its physical interaction with the transposon, and its catalytic activity. The Bari1 transposase localized in the nucleus and interacted with the terminal sequences of the transposon both in vitro and in vivo, however, no transposition activity was detected in transposition assays. Profiling of mRNAs expressed by the transposase gene revealed the expression of abnormal, internally processed transposase transcripts encoding truncated, catalytically inactive transposase polypeptides. We hypothesize that a post-transcriptional control mechanism produces transposase-derived polypeptides that effectively repress transposition. Our findings suggest further clues towards understanding the mechanisms that control transposition of an important class of mobile elements, which are both an endogenous source of genomic variability and widely used as transformation vectors/biotechnological tools.
The contribution of the transposons’ promoter in the horizontal transfer process is quite overlooked in the scientific literature. To shed light on this aspect we have mimicked the horizontal transfer process in laboratory and assayed in a wide range of hosts (fly, human, yeast and bacteria) the promoter activity of the 5′ terminal sequences in Bari1 and Bari3, two Drosophila transposons belonging to the Tc1-mariner superfamily. These sequences are able to drive the transcription of a reporter gene even in distantly related organisms at least at the episomal level. By combining bioinformatics and experimental approaches, we define two distinct promoter sequences for each terminal sequence analyzed, which allow transcriptional activity in prokaryotes and eukaryotes, respectively. We propose that the Bari family of transposons, and possibly other members of the Tc1-mariner superfamily, might have evolved “blurry promoters,” which have facilitated their diffusion in many living organisms through horizontal transfer.
Rene' Massimiliano Marsano
added a project goal
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.