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PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e53401. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053401. Epub 2012 Dec 28.

A novel family of terminal-repeat retrotransposon in miniature (TRIM) in the genome of the red harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex barbatus.

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Department of Biology, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont, United States of America.


We report the first described non-plant family of TRIMs (terminal-repeat retrotransposons in miniature), which are small nonautonomous LTR retrotransposons, from the whole-genome sequence of the red harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex barbatus (Hymenoptera: Myrmicinae). Members of this retrotransposon family, named PbTRIM, have typical features of plant TRIMs in length and structure, although they share no overall sequence similarity. PbTRIM elements and their solo-LTRs are abundant in the host genome and exhibit an uneven distribution pattern. Elements are preferentially inserted into TA-rich regions with ATAT as the most common pattern of target site duplication (TSD). PbTRIM is most likely mobile as indicated by the young age of many complete elements, the high degree of sequence similarity among elements at different genomic locations, the abundance of elements in the host genome, and the presence of 4-bp target site duplications (TSDs) flanking the elements and solo-LTRs. Many PbTRIM elements and their solo-LTRs are located within or near genes, suggesting their potential roles in restructuring the host genes and genome. Database search, PCR and sequencing analysis revealed the presence of homologous PbTRIM elements in other ant species. The high sequence similarity between elements from distantly related ant species, the incongruence between the phylogenies of PbTRIM and its hosts, and the patchy distribution of the retroelement within the Myrmicinae subfamily indicate possible horizontal transfer events of the retroelement.

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