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Mol Cell Biol. Jul 1996; 16(7): 3756–3764.
PMCID: PMC231371

The 3' ends of tRNA-derived short interspersed repetitive elements are derived from the 3' ends of long interspersed repetitive elements.


Short interspersed repetitive elements (SINEs) are a type of retroposon, being members of a class of informational molecules that are amplified via cDNA intermediates and flow back into the host genome. In contrast to retroviruses and retrotransposons, SINEs do not encode the enzymes required for their amplification, such as reverse transcriptases, so they are presumed to borrow these enzymes from other sources. In the present study, we isolated a family of long interspersed repetitive elements (LINEs) from the turtle genome. The sequence of this family was found to be very similar to those of the avian CR1 family. To our surprise, the sequence at the 3' end of the LINE in the turtle genome was nearly identical to that of a family of tortoise SINEs. Since CR1-like LINEs are widespread in birds and in many other reptiles, including the turtle, and since the tortoise SINEs are only found in vertical-necked turtles, it seems possible that the sequence at the 3' end of the tortoise SINEs might have been generated by recombination with the CR1-like LINE in a common ancestor of vertical-necked turtles, after the divergence of side-necked turtles. We extended our observations to show that the 3'-end sequences of families of several tRNA-derived SINEs, such as the salmonid HpaI family, the tobacco TS family, and the salmon SmaI family, might have originated from the respective LINEs. Since it appears reasonable that the recognition sites of LINEs for reverse transcriptase are located within their 3'-end sequences, these results provide the basis for a general scheme for the mechanism by which SINEs might acquire retropositional activity. We propose here that tRNA-derived SINEs might have been generated by a recombination event in which a strong-stop DNA with a primer tRNA, which is an intermediate in the replication of certain retroviruses and long terminal repeat retrotransposons, was directly integrated at the 3' end of a LINE.

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Selected References

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