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Mol Biol Evol. 2009 Aug;26(8):1811-22. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msp090. Epub 2009 May 6.

The evolutionary dynamics of autonomous non-LTR retrotransposons in the lizard Anolis carolinensis shows more similarity to fish than mammals.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Queens College, The City University of New York, NY, USA.


The genome of the lizard Anolis carolinensis (the green anole) is the first nonavian reptilian genome sequenced. It offers a unique opportunity to comparatively examine the evolution of amniote genomes. We analyzed the abundance and diversity of non-LTR (long terminal repeat) retrotransposons in the anole using the Genome Parsing Suite. We found that the anole genome contains an extraordinary diversity of elements. We identified 46 families of elements representing five clades (L1, L2, CR1, RTE, and R4). Within most families, elements are very similar to each other suggesting that they have been inserted recently. The rarity of old elements suggests a high rate of turnover, the insertion of new elements being offset by the loss of element-containing loci. Consequently, non-LTR retrotransposons accumulate in the anole at a low rate and are found in low copy number. This pattern of diversity shows some striking similarity with the genome of teleostean fish but contrasts greatly with the low diversity and high copy number of mammalian L1 elements, suggesting a fundamental difference in the way mammals and nonmammalian vertebrates interact with their genomic parasites. The scarcity of divergent elements in anoles suggests that insertions have a deleterious effect and are eliminated by natural selection. We propose that the low abundance of non-LTR retrotransposons in the anole is related directly or indirectly to a higher rate of ectopic recombination in the anole relative to mammals.

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