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Genetics. 2002 Oct;162(2):799-811.

Rates of R1 and R2 retrotransposition and elimination from the rDNA locus of Drosophila melanogaster.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Rochester, New York 14627, USA.


R1 and R2 elements are non-LTR retrotransposons that insert specifically into the 28S rRNA genes of arthropods. The process of concerted evolution of the rDNA locus should give rise to rapid turnover of these mobile elements compared to elements that insert at sites throughout a genome. To estimate the rate of R1 and R2 turnover we have examined the insertion of new elements and elimination of old elements in the Harwich mutation accumulation lines of Drosophila melanogaster, a set of inbred lines maintained for >350 generations. Nearly 300 new insertion and elimination events were observed in the 19 Harwich lines. The retrotransposition rate for R1 was 18 times higher than the retrotransposition rate for R2. Both rates were within the range previously found for retrotransposons that insert outside the rDNA loci in D. melanogaster. The elimination rates of R1 and R2 from the rDNA locus were similar to each other but over two orders of magnitude higher than that found for other retrotransposons. The high rates of R1 and R2 elimination from the rDNA locus confirm that these elements must maintain relatively high rates of retrotransposition to ensure their continued presence in this locus.

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