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DNA Res. 2017 Oct 1;24(5):459-472. doi: 10.1093/dnares/dsx017.

Short and long-term evolutionary dynamics of subtelomeric piRNA clusters in Drosophila.

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Sorbonne Universités, UPMC University of Paris 06, CNRS, Biologie du Développement Paris-Seine, Institut de Biologie Paris-Seine (LBD-IBPS), 75005 Paris, France.
Lab Genome Dynamics, Department for Cell & Developmental Biology, Center of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Medical University of Vienna, A-1090 Vienna, Austria.


Two Telomeric Associated Sequences, TAS-R and TAS-L, form the principal subtelomeric repeat families identified in Drosophila melanogaster. They are PIWI-interacting RNA (piRNA) clusters involved in repression of Transposable Elements. In this study, we revisited TAS structural and functional dynamics in D. melanogaster and in related species. In silico analysis revealed that TAS-R family members are composed of previously uncharacterized domains. This analysis also showed that TAS-L repeats are composed of arrays of a region we have named "TAS-L like" (TLL) identified specifically in one TAS-R family member, X-TAS. TLL were also present in other species of the melanogaster subgroup. Therefore, it is possible that TLL represents an ancestral subtelomeric piRNA core-cluster. Furthermore, all D. melanogaster genomes tested possessed at least one TAS-R locus, whereas TAS-L can be absent. A screen of 110 D. melanogaster lines showed that X-TAS is always present in flies living in the wild, but often absent in long-term laboratory stocks and that natural populations frequently lost their X-TAS within 2 years upon lab conditioning. Therefore, the unexpected structural and temporal dynamics of subtelomeric piRNA clusters demonstrated here suggests that genome organization is subjected to distinct selective pressures in the wild and upon domestication in the laboratory.


Drosophila; TAS; piRNA; subtelomeres; transposable element

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