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Genetics. 2000 Apr;154(4):1809-17.

The end of the LINE?: lack of recent L1 activity in a group of South American rodents.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Idaho, Moscow 83844, USA.


L1s (LINE-1: Long Interspersed Nuclear Element 1) are present in all mammals examined to date. They occur in both placental mammals and marsupials and thus are thought to have been present in the genome prior to the mammalian radiation. This unusual conservation of a transposable element family for over 100 million years has led to speculation that these elements provide an advantage to the genomes they inhabit. We have recently identified a group of South American rodents, including rice rats (Oryzomys), in which L1s appear to be quiescent or extinct. Several observations support this conclusion. First, genomic Southern blot analysis fails to reveal genus-specific bands in Oryzomys. Second, we were unable to find recently inserted elements. Procedures to enrich for young elements did not yield any with an intact open reading frame for reverse transcriptase; all elements isolated had numerous insertions, deletions, and stop codons. Phylogenetic analysis failed to yield species-specific clusters among the L1 elements isolated, and all Oryzomys sequences had numerous private mutations. Finally, in situ hybridization of L1 to Oryzomys chromosomes failed to reveal the characteristic L1 distribution in Oryzomys with either a homologous or heterologous probe. Thus, Oryzomys is a viable candidate for L1 extinction from a mammalian host.

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