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Trends Ecol Evol. 1996;11(1):10-5.

Symbiotic DNA in eukaryotic genomes.

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Dept of Biology, McGill University, 1205 ave Dr. Penfield, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A 1B1.


The recent explosive growth of molecular genetic databases has yielded increasingly detailed insights into the evolutionary dynamics of eukaryotic genomes. DNA sequences with the self-encoded ability to transpose and replicate are unexpectedly abundant and widespread in eukaryotic genomes. They seem to be sexual parasites. By dispersing themselves among the chromosomes, they increase their transmission rates and can invade outcrossing populations despite reducing host fitness. Once established, molecular parasites may themselves be parasitized by other elements, and through selection for reduced virulence may become beneficial genes. Elements have been isolated at various stages in this progression, from transposons that regulate their own transposition rates, to fundamental components of eukaryotic cytology, such as telomeres.

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