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Mol Biol Evol. 2001 Jun;18(6):954-61.

Loss of transposase-DNA interaction may underlie the divergence of mariner family transposable elements and the ability of more than one mariner to occupy the same genome.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA 15282, USA.


Mariners are a large family of eukaryotic DNA-mediated transposable elements that move via a cut-and-paste mechanism. Several features of the evolutionary history of mariners are unusual. First, they appear to undergo horizontal transfer commonly between species on an evolutionary timescale. They can do this because they are able to transpose using only their own self-encoded transposase and not host-specific factors. One consequence of this phenomenon is that more than one kind of mariner can be present in the same genome. We hypothesized that two mariners occupying the same genome would not interact. We tested the limits of mariner interactions using an in vitro transposition system, purified mariner transposases, and DNAse I footprinting. Only mariner elements that were very closely related to each other (ca. 84% identity) cross-mobilized, and then inefficiently. Because of the dramatic suppression of transposition between closely related elements, we propose that to isolate elements functionally, only minor changes might be necessary between elements, in both inverted terminal repeat and amino acid sequence. We further propose a mechanism to explain mariner diversification based on this phenomenon.

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