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Genetics. 2005 May;170(1):195-205. Epub 2005 Mar 21.

Characterization of active R2 retrotransposition in the rDNA locus of Drosophila simulans.

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


The rRNA gene (rDNA) loci of all arthropod lineages contain non-LTR retrotransposable elements that have evolved to specifically insert into the 28S rRNA genes. Extensive in vitro experiments have been conducted to investigate the mechanism of R2 retrotransposition but little is known of the insertion frequency or cellular factors that might regulate R2 activity. In this article, isofemale lines obtained from a population of Drosophila simulans were surveyed for recent R2 insertions. Within most lines, all individuals showed the same collection of R2 insertions, providing no evidence for recent R2 activity. However, in a few of the isofemale lines, virtually all individuals differed in their R2 insertion profiles. The descendants of individual pairs of flies from these "active lines" rapidly accumulated new insertions. The frequent insertion of new R2 elements was associated with the elimination of old R2 elements from the rDNA locus. The existence of lines in which R2 retrotransposes frequently and lines in which the elements appear dormant suggests that cellular mechanisms that can regulate the activity of R2 exist. Retrotransposition activity was correlated with the number of full-length R2 elements but not with the size of the rDNA locus or the number of uninserted units.

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