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Nucleic Acids Res. 1995 Jan 11;23(1):98-102.

MIRs are classic, tRNA-derived SINEs that amplified before the mammalian radiation.

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Department of Biology, Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope, Duarte, CA 91010.


Short Interspersed Nucleotide Elements (SINEs) are highly abundant in mammalian genomes. The term SINE has come to be restricted to short retroposons with internal RNA polymerase III promoter sites in a region derived from a structural RNA (usually a tRNA). Here we describe a novel, 260 bp tRNA-derived SINE, some fragments of which have been noted before to be repetitive in mammalian DNA. Unlike previously reported SINEs, which are restricted to closely related species, copies of this element can be found in all mammalian genomes, including marsupials. It is therefore called MIR for mammalian-wide interspersed repeat. Their high divergence and their presence at orthologous sites in different mammals indicate that MIRs, at least in part, amplified before the mammalian radiation. Next to Alu, MIRs are the most common interspersed repeat in primates with an estimated 300,000 copies still discernible, which account for 1 to 2% of our DNA. Interestingly, a small, central region of MIR appears to be much better conserved in the genomic copies than the rest of the sequence.

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