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Genetics. Feb 2004; 166(2): 971–986.
PMCID: PMC1470744

PIF- and Pong-like transposable elements: distribution, evolution and relationship with Tourist-like miniature inverted-repeat transposable elements.


Miniature inverted-repeat transposable elements (MITEs) are short, nonautonomous DNA elements that are widespread and abundant in plant genomes. Most of the hundreds of thousands of MITEs identified to date have been divided into two major groups on the basis of shared structural and sequence characteristics: Tourist-like and Stowaway-like. Since MITEs have no coding capacity, they must rely on transposases encoded by other elements. Two active transposons, the maize P Instability Factor (PIF) and the rice Pong element, have recently been implicated as sources of transposase for Tourist-like MITEs. Here we report that PIF- and Pong-like elements are widespread, diverse, and abundant in eukaryotes with hundreds of element-associated transposases found in a variety of plant, animal, and fungal genomes. The availability of virtually the entire rice genome sequence facilitated the identification of all the PIF/Pong-like elements in this organism and permitted a comprehensive analysis of their relationship with Tourist-like MITEs. Taken together, our results indicate that PIF and Pong are founding members of a large eukaryotic transposon superfamily and that members of this superfamily are responsible for the origin and amplification of Tourist-like MITEs.

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