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J Theor Biol. 1997 Jul 21;187(2):261-71.

The role of host factors in the population dynamics of selfish transposable elements.

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Department of Genetics, University of Nottingham, Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham, NG7 2UH, U.K.


Previous models of the evolution of selfish transposable genetic elements have failed to include the possibility that transposition may be limited by shortage of a host-encoded factor. The titration of host factors may be important in limiting the rate of transpositional increase in these elements. This will be exacerbated if multiple copies of the host factor protein must bind simultaneously to the target element. In the case of the Drosophila melanogaster P transposable element, which can exist as autonomous and as non-autonomous copies, there is evidence that a host-encoded protein, IRBP, is required for the transposition process. We have produced a specific model of the invasion of a host population by the P element, in which we have incorporated the requirement for the multiple binding of a host factor. We find that, for the P family, in which it is apparently transposition itself that creates selective harm to the host, the effect of selection in the context of host factor limitation is to drive up copy number. This can result in a novel high copy number-low transposition state. We also find that host factor limitation reinforces the tendency for transposable elements that create sterility to be replaced by their deletion derivatives.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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