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Genome Biol. 2007;8(2):R28.

A genome-wide transcriptional activity survey of rice transposable element-related genes.

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Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, Yale University, 165 Prospect Street, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.



Transposable element (TE)-related genes comprise a significant portion of the gene catalog of grasses, although their functions are insufficiently characterized. The recent availability of TE-related gene annotation from the complete genome sequence of rice (Oryza sativa) has created an opportunity to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the transcriptional activities of these potentially mobile elements and their related genes.


We conducted a genome-wide survey of the transcriptional activity of TE-related genes associated with 15 developmental stages and stress conditions. This dataset was obtained using a microarray encompassing 2,191 unique TE-related rice genes, which were represented by oligonucleotide probes that were free from cross-hybridization. We found that TE-related genes exhibit much lower transcriptional activities than do non-TE-related genes, although representative transcripts were detected from all superfamilies of both type I and II TE-related genes. The strongest transcriptional activities were detected in TE-related genes from among the MULE and CACTA superfamilies. Phylogenetic analyses suggest that domesticated TE-related genes tend to form clades with active transcription. In addition, chromatin-level regulations through histone and DNA modifications, as well as enrichment of certain cis elements in the promoters, appear to contribute to the transcriptional activation of representative TE-related genes.


Our findings reveal clear, albeit low, general transcription of TE-related genes. In combination with phylogenetic analysis, transcriptional analysis has the potential to lead to the identification of domesticated TEs with adapted host functions.

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