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Mol Biol Evol. 2001 Nov;18(11):2067-82.

The DIRS1 group of retrotransposons.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.


Only three retrotransposons of the DIRS1 group have previously been described: DIRS1 from the slime mold Dictyostelium discoideum, PAT from the nematode Panagrellus redivivus, and Prt1 from the zygomycetous fungus Phycomyces blakesleeanus. Analyses of the reverse transcriptase sequences encoded by these elements suggest that they are related to the long terminal repeat (LTR) retroelements, such as the Ty3/gypsy retrotransposons and the vertebrate retroviruses. The DIRS1-group elements, however, have several unusual structural features which distinguish them from typical LTR elements: (1) they lack the capacity to encode DDE-type integrases or aspartic proteases; (2) they have open reading frames (ORFs) of unknown function; (3) they integrate without creating duplications of their target sites; and (4) although they are bordered by terminal repeats, these sequences differ from typical LTRs in that they are either inverted repeats or "split" direct repeats. Because of the small number of DIRS1-like elements described, and the unusual structures of these elements, little is known about their evolution, distribution, and replication mechanisms. Here, we report the identification of several new DIRS1-like retrotransposons, including elements from nematodes, sea urchins, fish, and amphibia. We also present evidence for the existence of DIRS1-like sequences in the human genome. In addition, we show that the lack of DDE-type integrase genes from elements of the DIRS1 group is explained by the finding that the previously uncharacterized ORFs of these elements encode proteins related to the site-specific recombinase of bacteriophage lambda. The presence of lambda-recombinase-like genes in DIRS1 elements also accounts for the lack of target-site duplications for these elements and may be related to the unusual structures of their terminal repeats.

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