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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Aug 16;102(33):11781-6. Epub 2005 Aug 4.

Diverse DNA transposons in rotifers of the class Bdelloidea.

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Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138-2019, USA.


We surveyed the diversity, structural organization, and patterns of evolution of DNA transposons in rotifers of the class Bdelloidea, a group of basal triploblast animals that appears to have evolved for millions of years without sexual reproduction. Representatives of five superfamilies were identified: ITm (IS630/Tc/mariner), hAT, piggyBac, helitron, and foldback. Except for mariners, no fully intact copies were found. Mariners, both intact and decayed, are present in high copy number, and those described here may be grouped in several closely related lineages. Comparisons across lineages show strong evidence of purifying selection, whereas there is little or no evidence of such selection within lineages. This pattern could have resulted from repeated horizontal transfers from an exogenous source, followed by limited intragenomic proliferation, or, less plausibly, from within-host formation of new lineages under host- or element-based selection for function, in either case followed by eventual inactivation and decay. Unexpectedly, the flanking sequences surrounding the majority of mariners are very similar, indicating either insertion specificity or proliferation as part of larger DNA segments. Members of all superfamilies are present near chromosome ends, associated with the apparently domesticated retroelement Athena, in large clusters composed of diverse DNA transposons, often inserted into each other, whereas the examined gene-rich regions are nearly transposon-free.

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