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Basic Life Sci. 1988;47:189-212.

The maintenance of transposable elements in natural populations.

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Department of Biology, University of Chicago, Illinois 60637.


Models of the maintenance of transposable elements in randomly mating host populations are reviewed. It is shown that the data on the distribution of copy numbers between individuals are largely concordant with what is expected on the basis of the Mendelian transmission of elements. The role of regulation of rates of transposition, and of various modes of natural selection, in maintaining an equilibrium in copy numbers in the face of transpositional increase in copy number is discussed. Tests for the role of selection against insertional mutations and against chromosome rearrangements induced by exchange between homologous elements located at nonhomologous chromosome locations are discussed. Reasons for expecting elements to accumulate in chromosome regions where crossing over is restricted are discussed, and data suggesting the existence of such an effect are described. Theory and data on the probability distribution of element frequencies at individual chromosomal sites are described. It is concluded that the available population data are consistent with the notion that element abundances are largely controlled by the interaction of transpositional increase in copy number with opposing forces.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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