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Repetitive sequences in complex genomes: structure and evolution.

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Genetic Information Research Institute, Mountain View, California 94043, USA.


Eukaryotic genomes contain vast amounts of repetitive DNA derived from transposable elements (TEs). Large-scale sequencing of these genomes has produced an unprecedented wealth of information about the origin, diversity, and genomic impact of what was once thought to be "junk DNA." This has also led to the identification of two new classes of DNA transposons, Helitrons and Polintons, as well as several new superfamilies and thousands of new families. TEs are evolutionary precursors of many genes, including RAG1, which plays a role in the vertebrate immune system. They are also the driving force in the evolution of epigenetic regulation and have a long-term impact on genomic stability and evolution. Remnants of TEs appear to be overrepresented in transcription regulatory modules and other regions conserved among distantly related species, which may have implications for our understanding of their impact on speciation.

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