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Genes (Basel). 2018 May 15;9(5). pii: E254. doi: 10.3390/genes9050254.

The Role of Transposable Elements in Speciation.

Author information

1
Biology Department, Genome Sciences Building, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27514, USA. gaserrat@email.unc.edu.
2
Biology Department, Genome Sciences Building, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27514, USA. dmatute@email.unc.edu.

Abstract

Understanding the phenotypic and molecular mechanisms that contribute to genetic diversity between and within species is fundamental in studying the evolution of species. In particular, identifying the interspecific differences that lead to the reduction or even cessation of gene flow between nascent species is one of the main goals of speciation genetic research. Transposable elements (TEs) are DNA sequences with the ability to move within genomes. TEs are ubiquitous throughout eukaryotic genomes and have been shown to alter regulatory networks, gene expression, and to rearrange genomes as a result of their transposition. However, no systematic effort has evaluated the role of TEs in speciation. We compiled the evidence for TEs as potential causes of reproductive isolation across a diversity of taxa. We find that TEs are often associated with hybrid defects that might preclude the fusion between species, but that the involvement of TEs in other barriers to gene flow different from postzygotic isolation is still relatively unknown. Finally, we list a series of guides and research avenues to disentangle the effects of TEs on the origin of new species.

KEYWORDS:

reproductive isolation; speciation; transposable elements

PMID:
29762547
DOI:
10.3390/genes9050254
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