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Nucleic Acids Res. Jul 25, 1994; 22(14): 2726–2730.
PMCID: PMC308240

Can SINEs: a family of tRNA-derived retroposons specific to the superfamily Canoidea.


A repetitive element of approximately 200 bp was cloned from harbour seal (Phoca vitulina concolour) genomic DNA. The sequence of the element revealed putative RNA polymerase III control boxes, a poly A tail and direct terminal repeats characteristic of SINEs. Sequence and secondary structural similarities suggest that the SINE is derived from a tRNA, possibly tRNA-alanine. Southern blot analysis indicated that the element is predominately dispersed in unique regions of the seal genome, but may also be present in other repetitive sequences, such as tandemly arrayed satellite DNA. Based on slot-blot hybridization analysis, we estimate that 1.3 x 10(6) copies of the SINE are present in the harbour seal genome; SINE copy number based on the number of clones isolated from a size-selected library, however, is an order of magnitude lower (1-3 x 10(5) copies), an estimate consistent with the abundance of SINEs in other mammalian genomes. Database searches found similar sequences have been isolated from dog (Canis familiaris) and mink (Mustela vison). These, and the seal SINE sequences are characterized by an internal CT dinucleotide microsatellite in the tRNA-unrelated region. Hybridization of genomic DNA from representative species of a wide range of mammalian orders to an oligonucleotide (30mer) probe complementary to a conserved region of the SINE confirmed that the element is unique to carnivores of the superfamily Canoidea.

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Selected References

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