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1.  High Rate of Recent Transposable Element–Induced Adaptation in Drosophila melanogaster 
PLoS Biology  2008;6(10):e251.
Although transposable elements (TEs) are known to be potent sources of mutation, their contribution to the generation of recent adaptive changes has never been systematically assessed. In this work, we conduct a genome-wide screen for adaptive TE insertions in Drosophila melanogaster that have taken place during or after the spread of this species out of Africa. We determine population frequencies of 902 of the 1,572 TEs in Release 3 of the D. melanogaster genome and identify a set of 13 putatively adaptive TEs. These 13 TEs increased in population frequency sharply after the spread out of Africa. We argue that many of these TEs are in fact adaptive by demonstrating that the regions flanking five of these TEs display signatures of partial selective sweeps. Furthermore, we show that eight out of the 13 putatively adaptive elements show population frequency heterogeneity consistent with these elements playing a role in adaptation to temperate climates. We conclude that TEs have contributed considerably to recent adaptive evolution (one TE-induced adaptation every 200–1,250 y). The majority of these adaptive insertions are likely to be involved in regulatory changes. Our results also suggest that TE-induced adaptations arise more often from standing variants than from new mutations. Such a high rate of TE-induced adaptation is inconsistent with the number of fixed TEs in the D. melanogaster genome, and we discuss possible explanations for this discrepancy.
Author Summary
Transposable elements (TEs) are present in virtually all species and often contribute a substantial fraction of the genome size. Understanding the functional roles, evolution, and population dynamics of TEs is essential to understanding genome evolution and function. Much of our knowledge about TE population dynamics and evolution comes from the studies of TEs in Drosophila. However, the adaptive importance of TEs in the Drosophila genome has never been assessed. In this work, we describe the first comprehensive genome-wide screen for recent adaptive TE insertions in D. melanogaster. Using several independent criteria, we identified a set of 13 adaptive TEs and estimate that 25–50 TEs have played adaptive roles since the migration of D. melanogaster out of Africa. We show that most of these adaptive TEs are likely to be involved in regulatory changes and appear to be involved in adaptation to the temperate climate. We argue that most identified adaptive TEs are destined to be lost from the D. melanogaster population but that they do contribute significantly to local adaptation in this species.
Transposable elements contributed substantially to the adaptation ofD. melanogaster to the out-of-Africa environments. The majority of these adaptive insertions are likely to be involved in regulatory changes.
PMCID: PMC2570423  PMID: 18942889
2.  Whole Genome Resequencing Reveals Natural Target Site Preferences of Transposable Elements in Drosophila melanogaster 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e30008.
Transposable elements are mobile DNA sequences that integrate into host genomes using diverse mechanisms with varying degrees of target site specificity. While the target site preferences of some engineered transposable elements are well studied, the natural target preferences of most transposable elements are poorly characterized. Using population genomic resequencing data from 166 strains of Drosophila melanogaster, we identified over 8,000 new insertion sites not present in the reference genome sequence that we used to decode the natural target preferences of 22 families of transposable element in this species. We found that terminal inverted repeat transposon and long terminal repeat retrotransposon families present clade-specific target site duplications and target site sequence motifs. Additionally, we found that the sequence motifs at transposable element target sites are always palindromes that extend beyond the target site duplication. Our results demonstrate the utility of population genomics data for high-throughput inference of transposable element targeting preferences in the wild and establish general rules for terminal inverted repeat transposon and long terminal repeat retrotransposon target site selection in eukaryotic genomes.
PMCID: PMC3276498  PMID: 22347367
3.  Abundance and Distribution of Transposable Elements in Two Drosophila QTL Mapping Resources 
Molecular Biology and Evolution  2013;30(10):2311-2327.
Here we present computational machinery to efficiently and accurately identify transposable element (TE) insertions in 146 next-generation sequenced inbred strains of Drosophila melanogaster. The panel of lines we use in our study is composed of strains from a pair of genetic mapping resources: the Drosophila Genetic Reference Panel (DGRP) and the Drosophila Synthetic Population Resource (DSPR). We identified 23,087 TE insertions in these lines, of which 83.3% are found in only one line. There are marked differences in the distribution of elements over the genome, with TEs found at higher densities on the X chromosome, and in regions of low recombination. We also identified many more TEs per base pair of intronic sequence and fewer TEs per base pair of exonic sequence than expected if TEs are located at random locations in the euchromatic genome. There was substantial variation in TE load across genes. For example, the paralogs derailed and derailed-2 show a significant difference in the number of TE insertions, potentially reflecting differences in the selection acting on these loci. When considering TE families, we find a very weak effect of gene family size on TE insertions per gene, indicating that as gene family size increases the number of TE insertions in a given gene within that family also increases. TEs are known to be associated with certain phenotypes, and our data will allow investigators using the DGRP and DSPR to assess the functional role of TE insertions in complex trait variation more generally. Notably, because most TEs are very rare and often private to a single line, causative TEs resulting in phenotypic differences among individuals may typically fail to replicate across mapping panels since individual elements are unlikely to segregate in both panels. Our data suggest that “burden tests” that test for the effect of TEs as a class may be more fruitful.
PMCID: PMC3773372  PMID: 23883524
transposable element; DGRP; DSPR; genomics; population genetics
4.  Heterochromatic sequences in a Drosophila whole-genome shotgun assembly 
Genome Biology  2002;3(12):research0085.1-85.16.
Annotation of an improved whole-genome shotgun assembly of the Drosophila melanogaster genome predicted 297 protein-coding genes and six non-protein-coding genes, including known heterochromatic genes, and regions of similarity to known transposable elements. Fluorescence in situ hybridization was used to correlate the genomic sequence with the cytogenetic map; the annotated euchromatic sequence extends into the centric heterochromatin on each chromosome arm.
Most eukaryotic genomes include a substantial repeat-rich fraction termed heterochromatin, which is concentrated in centric and telomeric regions. The repetitive nature of heterochromatic sequence makes it difficult to assemble and analyze. To better understand the heterochromatic component of the Drosophila melanogaster genome, we characterized and annotated portions of a whole-genome shotgun sequence assembly.
WGS3, an improved whole-genome shotgun assembly, includes 20.7 Mb of draft-quality sequence not represented in the Release 3 sequence spanning the euchromatin. We annotated this sequence using the methods employed in the re-annotation of the Release 3 euchromatic sequence. This analysis predicted 297 protein-coding genes and six non-protein-coding genes, including known heterochromatic genes, and regions of similarity to known transposable elements. Bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC)-based fluorescence in situ hybridization analysis was used to correlate the genomic sequence with the cytogenetic map in order to refine the genomic definition of the centric heterochromatin; on the basis of our cytological definition, the annotated Release 3 euchromatic sequence extends into the centric heterochromatin on each chromosome arm.
Whole-genome shotgun assembly produced a reliable draft-quality sequence of a significant part of the Drosophila heterochromatin. Annotation of this sequence defined the intron-exon structures of 30 known protein-coding genes and 267 protein-coding gene models. The cytogenetic mapping suggests that an additional 150 predicted genes are located in heterochromatin at the base of the Release 3 euchromatic sequence. Our analysis suggests strategies for improving the sequence and annotation of the heterochromatic portions of the Drosophila and other complex genomes.
PMCID: PMC151187  PMID: 12537574
5.  Population Genomics of Transposable Elements in Drosophila melanogaster 
Molecular Biology and Evolution  2010;28(5):1633-1644.
Transposable elements (TEs) are the primary contributors to the genome bulk in many organisms and are major players in genome evolution. A clear and thorough understanding of the population dynamics of TEs is therefore essential for full comprehension of the eukaryotic genome evolution and function. Although TEs in Drosophila melanogaster have received much attention, population dynamics of most TE families in this species remains entirely unexplored. It is not clear whether the same population processes can account for the population behaviors of all TEs in Drosophila or whether, as has been suggested previously, different orders behave according to very different rules. In this work, we analyzed population frequencies for a large number of individual TEs (755 TEs) in five North American and one sub-Saharan African D. melanogaster populations (75 strains in total). These TEs have been annotated in the reference D. melanogaster euchromatic genome and have been sampled from all three major orders (non-LTR, LTR, and TIR) and from all families with more than 20 TE copies (55 families in total). We find strong evidence that TEs in Drosophila across all orders and families are subject to purifying selection at the level of ectopic recombination. We showed that strength of this selection varies predictably with recombination rate, length of individual TEs, and copy number and length of other TEs in the same family. Importantly, these rules do not appear to vary across orders. Finally, we built a statistical model that considered only individual TE-level (such as the TE length) and family-level properties (such as the copy number) and were able to explain more than 40% of the variation in TE frequencies in D. melanogaster.
PMCID: PMC3080135  PMID: 21172826
transposable elements; Drosophila; population dynamics; ectopic recombination; purifying selection
6.  BS a novel LINE-like element in Drosophila melanogaster. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1995;23(8):1354-1358.
Transposable elements with long terminal inverted repeats are rare and only one family of elements of this sort has been identified in the genome of Drosophila melanogaster. An insertion associated with the HSBS mutation of the achaete-scute complex has been reported to be a second element of this type. We have determined the complete sequence of this insertion and have shown that it is in fact two copies of a new LINE-like transposable element, that we have called BS, inserted in opposite orientation 337 bp apart. Like other elements of this type, BS has two open reading frames that appear to encode a gag-like polypeptide and a reverse transcriptase. There are few complete BS elements in the five strains of D.melanogaster that we have tested and they appear to transpose infrequently. The events that may have lead to the double BS insertion are discussed in terms of the supposed mechanism of transposition of LINE-like elements.
PMCID: PMC306861  PMID: 7753626
7.  Evolutionary Genomics of Transposable Elements in Saccharomyces cerevisiae 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e50978.
Saccharomyces cerevisiae is one of the premier model systems for studying the genomics and evolution of transposable elements. The availability of the S. cerevisiae genome led to unprecedented insights into its five known transposable element families (the LTR retrotransposons Ty1-Ty5) in the years shortly after its completion. However, subsequent advances in bioinformatics tools for analysing transposable elements and the recent availability of genome sequences for multiple strains and species of yeast motivates new investigations into Ty evolution in S. cerevisiae. Here we provide a comprehensive phylogenetic and population genetic analysis of all Ty families in S. cerevisiae based on a systematic re-annotation of Ty elements in the S288c reference genome. We show that previous annotation efforts have underestimated the total copy number of Ty elements for all known families. In addition, we identify a new family of Ty3-like elements related to the S. paradoxus Ty3p which is composed entirely of degenerate solo LTRs. Phylogenetic analyses of LTR sequences identified three families with short-branch, recently active clades nested among long branch, inactive insertions (Ty1, Ty3, Ty4), one family with essentially all recently active elements (Ty2) and two families with only inactive elements (Ty3p and Ty5). Population genomic data from 38 additional strains of S. cerevisiae show that the majority of Ty insertions in the S288c reference genome are fixed in the species, with insertions in active clades being predominantly polymorphic and insertions in inactive clades being predominantly fixed. Finally, we use comparative genomic data to provide evidence that the Ty2 and Ty3p families have arisen in the S. cerevisiae genome by horizontal transfer. Our results demonstrate that the genome of a single individual contains important information about the state of TE population dynamics within a species and suggest that horizontal transfer may play an important role in shaping the genomic diversity of transposable elements in unicellular eukaryotes.
PMCID: PMC3511429  PMID: 23226439
8.  Recurrent insertion and duplication generate networks of transposable element sequences in the Drosophila melanogaster genome 
Genome Biology  2006;7(11):R112.
An analysis of high-resolution transposable element annotations in Drosophila melanogaster suggests the existence of a global surveillance system against the majority of transposable elements families in the fly.
The recent availability of genome sequences has provided unparalleled insights into the broad-scale patterns of transposable element (TE) sequences in eukaryotic genomes. Nevertheless, the difficulties that TEs pose for genome assembly and annotation have prevented detailed, quantitative inferences about the contribution of TEs to genomes sequences.
Using a high-resolution annotation of TEs in Release 4 genome sequence, we revise estimates of TE abundance in Drosophila melanogaster. We show that TEs are non-randomly distributed within regions of high and low TE abundance, and that pericentromeric regions with high TE abundance are mosaics of distinct regions of extreme and normal TE density. Comparative analysis revealed that this punctate pattern evolves jointly by transposition and duplication, but not by inversion of TE-rich regions from unsequenced heterochromatin. Analysis of genome-wide patterns of TE nesting revealed a 'nesting network' that includes virtually all of the known TE families in the genome. Numerous directed cycles exist among TE families in the nesting network, implying concurrent or overlapping periods of transpositional activity.
Rapid restructuring of the genomic landscape by transposition and duplication has recently added hundreds of kilobases of TE sequence to pericentromeric regions in D. melanogaster. These events create ragged transitions between unique and repetitive sequences in the zone between euchromatic and beta-heterochromatic regions. Complex relationships of TE nesting in beta-heterochromatic regions raise the possibility of a co-suppression network that may act as a global surveillance system against the majority of TE families in D. melanogaster.
PMCID: PMC1794594  PMID: 17134480
9.  Chromatin domain boundary element search tool for Drosophila 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;40(10):4385-4395.
Chromatin domain boundary elements prevent inappropriate interaction between distant or closely spaced regulatory elements and restrict enhancers and silencers to correct target promoters. In spite of having such a general role and expected frequent occurrence genome wide, there is no DNA sequence analysis based tool to identify boundary elements. Here, we report chromatin domain Boundary Element Search Tool (cdBEST), to identify boundary elements. cdBEST uses known recognition sequences of boundary interacting proteins and looks for ‘motif clusters’. Using cdBEST, we identified boundary sequences across 12 Drosophila species. Of the 4576 boundary sequences identified in Drosophila melanogaster genome, >170 sequences are repetitive in nature and have sequence homology to transposable elements. Analysis of such sequences across 12 Drosophila genomes showed that the occurrence of repetitive sequences in the context of boundaries is a common feature of drosophilids. We use a variety of genome organization criteria and also experimental test on a subset of the cdBEST boundaries in an enhancer-blocking assay and show that 80% of them indeed function as boundaries in vivo. These observations highlight the role of cdBEST in better understanding of chromatin domain boundaries in Drosophila and setting the stage for comparative analysis of boundaries across closely related species.
PMCID: PMC3378885  PMID: 22287636
Cytogenetic and genome research  2005;110(1-4):152-159.
Drosophila telomeres have been maintained by retrotransposition for at least 60 MY, which predates the separation of extant species of this genus. Studies of D. melanogaster, D. yakuba, and D. virilis show that, in Drosophila, telomeres are composed of two non-LTR retrotransposons, HeT-A and TART. Far from being static, HeT-A and TART evolve faster than Drosophila euchromatic genes. In spite of their high rate of sequence change, HeT-A and TART maintain their basic structures and unusual individual features. The maintenance of their separate identities suggests that HeT-A and TART cooperate either in the process of retrotransposition onto the chromosome end, or in the formation of telomere chromatin by transposed DNA copies. The telomeric retrotransposons and the Drosophila genome constitute an example of a robust symbiotic relationship between mobile elements and the genome.
PMCID: PMC1188233  PMID: 16093667
11.  Abundant and species-specific DINE-1 transposable elements in 12 Drosophila genomes 
Genome Biology  2008;9(2):R39.
Evidence is presented that DINE-1 is a highly abundant miniature inverted-repeat transposable element (MITE) family present in all 12 Drosophila species with whole-genome sequence available.
Miniature inverted-repeat transposable elements (MITEs) are non-autonomous DNA-mediated transposable elements (TEs) derived from autonomous TEs. Unlike in many plants or animals, MITEs and other types of DNA-mediated TEs were previously thought to be either rare or absent in Drosophila. Most other TE families in Drosophila exist at low or intermediate copy number (around < 100 per genome).
We present evidence here that the dispersed repeat Drosophila interspersed element 1 (DINE-1; also named INE-1 and DNAREP1) is a highly abundant DNA-mediated TE containing inverted repeats found in all 12 sequenced Drosophila genomes. All DINE-1s share a similar sequence structure, but are more homogeneous within species than they are among species. The inferred phylogenetic relationship of the DINE-1 consensus sequence from each species is generally consistent with the known species phylogeny, suggesting vertical transmission as the major mechanism for DINE-1 propagation. Exceptions observed in D. willistoni and D. ananassae could be due to either horizontal transfer or reactivation of ancestral copies. Our analysis of pairwise percentage identity of DINE-1 copies within species suggests that the transpositional activity of DINE-1 is extremely dynamic, with some lineages showing evidence for recent transpositional bursts and other lineages appearing to have silenced their DINE-1s for long periods of time. We also find that all species have many DINE-1 insertions in introns and adjacent to protein-coding genes. Finally, we discuss our results in light of a recent proposal that DINE-1s belong to the Helitron family of TEs.
We find that all 12 Drosophila species with whole-genome sequence contain the high copy element DINE-1. Although all DINE-1s share a similar structure, species-specific variation in the distribution of average pairwise divergence suggests that DINE-1 has gone through multiple independent cycles of activation and suppression. DINE-1 also has had a significant impact on gene structure evolution.
PMCID: PMC2374699  PMID: 18291035
12.  Exploring Repetitive DNA Landscapes Using REPCLASS, a Tool That Automates the Classification of Transposable Elements in Eukaryotic Genomes 
Eukaryotic genomes contain large amount of repetitive DNA, most of which is derived from transposable elements (TEs). Progress has been made to develop computational tools for ab initio identification of repeat families, but there is an urgent need to develop tools to automate the annotation of TEs in genome sequences. Here we introduce REPCLASS, a tool that automates the classification of TE sequences. Using control repeat libraries, we show that the program can classify accurately virtually any known TE types. Combining REPCLASS to ab initio repeat finding in the genomes of Caenorhabditis elegans and Drosophila melanogaster allowed us to recover the contrasting TE landscape characteristic of these species. Unexpectedly, REPCLASS also uncovered several novel TE families in both genomes, augmenting the TE repertoire of these model species. When applied to the genomes of distant Caenorhabditis and Drosophila species, the approach revealed a remarkable conservation of TE composition profile within each genus, despite substantial interspecific covariations in genome size and in the number of TEs and TE families. Lastly, we applied REPCLASS to analyze 10 fungal genomes from a wide taxonomic range, most of which have not been analyzed for TE content previously. The results showed that TE diversity varies widely across the fungi “kingdom” and appears to positively correlate with genome size, in particular for DNA transposons. Together, these data validate REPCLASS as a powerful tool to explore the repetitive DNA landscapes of eukaryotes and to shed light onto the evolutionary forces shaping TE diversity and genome architecture.
PMCID: PMC2817418  PMID: 20333191
transposable elements; transposons; repetitive elements; genome annotation; repeat classification
13.  HeT-A, a transposable element specifically involved in "healing" broken chromosome ends in Drosophila melanogaster. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1992;12(9):3910-3918.
Eight terminally deleted Drosophila melanogaster chromosomes have now been found to be "healed." In each case, the healed chromosome end had acquired sequence from the HeT DNA family, a complex family of repeated sequences found only in telomeric and pericentric heterochromatin. The sequences were apparently added by transposition events involving no sequence homology. We now report that the sequences transposed in healing these chromosomes identify a novel transposable element, HeT-A, which makes up a subset of the HeT DNA family. Addition of HeT-A elements to broken chromosome ends appears to be polar. The proximal junction between each element and the broken chromosome end is an oligo(A) tract beginning 54 nucleotides downstream from a conserved AATAAA sequence on the strand running 5' to 3' from the chromosome end. The distal (telomeric) ends of HeT-A elements are variably truncated; however, we have not yet been able to determine the extreme distal sequence of a complete element. Our analysis covers approximately 2,600 nucleotides of the HeT-A element, beginning with the oligo(A) tract at one end. Sequence homology is strong (greater than 75% between all elements studied). Sequence may be conserved for DNA structure rather than for protein coding; even the most recently transposed HeT-A elements lack significant open reading frames in the region studied. Instead, the elements exhibit conserved short-range sequence repeats and periodic long-range variation in base composition. These conserved features suggest that HeT-A elements, although transposable elements, may have a structural role in telomere organization or maintenance.
PMCID: PMC360270  PMID: 1324409
14.  T-lex: a program for fast and accurate assessment of transposable element presence using next-generation sequencing data 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;39(6):e36.
Transposable elements (TEs) are repetitive DNA sequences that are ubiquitous, extremely abundant and dynamic components of practically all genomes. Much effort has gone into annotation of TE copies in reference genomes. The sequencing cost reduction and the newly available next-generation sequencing (NGS) data from multiple strains within a species offer an unprecedented opportunity to study population genomics of TEs in a range of organisms. Here, we present a computational pipeline (T-lex) that uses NGS data to detect the presence/absence of annotated TE copies. T-lex can use data from a large number of strains and returns estimates of population frequencies of individual TE insertions in a reasonable time. We experimentally validated the accuracy of T-lex detecting presence or absence of 768 previously identified TE copies in two resequenced Drosophila melanogaster strains. Approximately 95% of the TE insertions were detected with 100% sensitivity and 97% specificity. We show that even at low levels of coverage T-lex produces accurate results for TE copies that it can identify reliably but that the rate of ‘no data’ calls increases as the coverage falls below 15×. T-lex is a broadly applicable and flexible tool that can be used in any genome provided the availability of the reference genome, individual TE copy annotation and NGS data.
PMCID: PMC3064797  PMID: 21177644
15.  Condensin II Subunit dCAP-D3 Restricts Retrotransposon Mobilization in Drosophila Somatic Cells 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(10):e1003879.
Retrotransposon sequences are positioned throughout the genome of almost every eukaryote that has been sequenced. As mobilization of these elements can have detrimental effects on the transcriptional regulation and stability of an organism's genome, most organisms have evolved mechanisms to repress their movement. Here, we identify a novel role for the Drosophila melanogaster Condensin II subunit, dCAP-D3 in preventing the mobilization of retrotransposons located in somatic cell euchromatin. dCAP-D3 regulates transcription of euchromatic gene clusters which contain or are proximal to retrotransposon sequence. ChIP experiments demonstrate that dCAP-D3 binds to these loci and is important for maintaining a repressed chromatin structure within the boundaries of the retrotransposon and for repressing retrotransposon transcription. We show that dCAP-D3 prevents accumulation of double stranded DNA breaks within retrotransposon sequence, and decreased dCAP-D3 levels leads to a precise loss of retrotransposon sequence at some dCAP-D3 regulated gene clusters and a gain of sequence elsewhere in the genome. Homologous chromosomes exhibit high levels of pairing in Drosophila somatic cells, and our FISH analyses demonstrate that retrotransposon-containing euchromatic loci are regions which are actually less paired than euchromatic regions devoid of retrotransposon sequences. Decreased dCAP-D3 expression increases pairing of homologous retrotransposon-containing loci in tissue culture cells. We propose that the combined effects of dCAP-D3 deficiency on double strand break levels, chromatin structure, transcription and pairing at retrotransposon-containing loci may lead to 1) higher levels of homologous recombination between repeats flanking retrotransposons in dCAP-D3 deficient cells and 2) increased retrotransposition. These findings identify a novel role for the anti-pairing activities of dCAP-D3/Condensin II and uncover a new way in which dCAP-D3/Condensin II influences local chromatin structure to help maintain genome stability.
Author Summary
Condensins are conserved complexes that are well known for their roles in promoting the efficient condensation of chromosomes during early mitosis. Previously, we have shown that the Drosophila Condensin II subunit, dCAP-D3, also functions to regulate transcription in somatic cells during the later stages of development. A significant number of dCAP-D3 regulated genes were found to be positioned very close to one another in clusters. In this study, we report that some of the most strongly regulated dCAP-D3 gene clusters are positioned near retrotransposons. Unexpectedly, we find that decreased dCAP-D3 expression results in a precise loss of retrotransposon sequence at these loci. Additionally, dCAP-D3 knockdown causes increased levels of double strand breaks within retrotransposon sequence, an opening of the chromatin in the region, increased retrotransposon transcription and a very significant increase in homologous pairing at the locus. Taken together, these results suggest that dCAP-D3/Condensin II functions to prevent recombination of retrotransposons between homologous chromosomes and possibly retrotransposition as well. This report identifies a novel function for Condensin II that may contribute to its role in genome organization.
PMCID: PMC3814330  PMID: 24204294
16.  The evolutionary dynamics of the Helena retrotransposon revealed by sequenced Drosophila genomes 
Several studies have shown that genomes contain a mixture of transposable elements, some of which are still active and others ancient relics that have degenerated. This is true for the non-LTR retrotransposon Helena, of which only degenerate sequences have been shown to be present in some species (Drosophila melanogaster), whereas putatively active sequences are present in others (D. simulans). Combining experimental and population analyses with the sequence analysis of the 12 Drosophila genomes, we have investigated the evolution of Helena, and propose a possible scenario for the evolution of this element.
We show that six species of Drosophila have the Helena transposable element at different stages of its evolution. The copy number is highly variable among these species, but most of them are truncated at the 5' ends and also harbor several internal deletions and insertions suggesting that they are inactive in all species, except in D. mojavensis in which quantitative RT-PCR experiments have identified a putative active copy.
Our data suggest that Helena was present in the common ancestor of the Drosophila genus, which has been vertically transmitted to the derived lineages, but that it has been lost in some of them. The wide variation in copy number and sequence degeneration in the different species suggest that the evolutionary dynamics of Helena depends on the genomic environment of the host species.
PMCID: PMC3087515  PMID: 19624823
17.  Contrasting Patterns of Transposable Element Insertions in Drosophila Heat-Shock Promoters 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(12):e8486.
The proximal promoter regions of heat-shock genes harbor a remarkable number of P transposable element (TE) insertions relative to both positive and negative control proximal promoter regions in natural populations of Drosophila melanogaster. We have screened the sequenced genomes of 12 species of Drosophila to test whether this pattern is unique to these populations. In the 12 species' genomes, transposable element insertions are no more abundant in promoter regions of single-copy heat-shock genes than in promoters with similar or dissimilar architecture. Also, insertions appear randomly distributed across the promoter region, whereas insertions clustered near the transcription start site in promoters of single-copy heat-shock genes in D. melanogaster natural populations. Hsp70 promoters exhibit more TE insertions per promoter than all other genesets in the 12 species, similarly to in natural populations of D. melanogaster. Insertions in the Hsp70 promoter region, however, cluster away from the transcription start site in the 12 species, but near it in natural populations of D. melanogaster. These results suggest that D. melanogaster heat-shock promoters are unique in terms of their interaction with transposable elements, and confirm that Hsp70 promoters are distinctive in TE insertions across Drosophila.
PMCID: PMC2793543  PMID: 20041194
18.  Element 1360 and RNAi Components Contribute to HP1-Dependent Silencing of a Pericentric Reporter 
Current biology : CB  2006;16(22):2222-2227.
In eukaryotes, distinct regions of the genome are packaged as euchromatin (less condensed, more active) or heterochromatin (condensed, silenced). Studies in yeast, plants and flies suggest that RNA interference (RNAi) is linked to heterochromatin formation and transcriptional silencing of transposable element (TE) sequences [1, 2]. We previously reported that insertion of a mobile hsp70-white reporter within 10 kb of a 1360 element on chromosome four of Drosophila melanogaster correlates with variegation (silencing) [3]. Here we report small RNAs (∼23 nt) corresponding to 1360, indicating processing by the RNAi machinery. To directly test the ability of 1360 to silence a nearby gene in vivo, we introduced a P element construct carrying a single copy of 1360 upstream of the hsp70-white reporter into flies. This 1360 element contributes to HP1-dependent variegation at a pericentric insertion site, as demonstrated by a decrease in silencing after FLP-mediated removal of 1360. In euchromatin, 1360 is not sufficient to induce silencing, suggesting that proximity to pericentric heterochromatin and/or a high local TE density contribute to heterochromatin formation. Silencing of the 1360, hsp70-white reporter is sensitive to mutations in RNAi components. Our results implicate 1360 as a target for sequence-specific heterochromatic silencing through an RNAi-dependent mechanism.
PMCID: PMC1712676  PMID: 17113386
19.  Ribosomal DNA Deletions Modulate Genome-Wide Gene Expression: “rDNA–Sensitive” Genes and Natural Variation 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(4):e1001376.
The ribosomal rDNA gene array is an epigenetically-regulated repeated gene locus. While rDNA copy number varies widely between and within species, the functional consequences of subtle copy number polymorphisms have been largely unknown. Deletions in the Drosophila Y-linked rDNA modifies heterochromatin-induced position effect variegation (PEV), but it has been unknown if the euchromatic component of the genome is affected by rDNA copy number. Polymorphisms of naturally occurring Y chromosomes affect both euchromatin and heterochromatin, although the elements responsible for these effects are unknown. Here we show that copy number of the Y-linked rDNA array is a source of genome-wide variation in gene expression. Induced deletions in the rDNA affect the expression of hundreds to thousands of euchromatic genes throughout the genome of males and females. Although the affected genes are not physically clustered, we observed functional enrichments for genes whose protein products are located in the mitochondria and are involved in electron transport. The affected genes significantly overlap with genes affected by natural polymorphisms on Y chromosomes, suggesting that polymorphic rDNA copy number is an important determinant of gene expression diversity in natural populations. Altogether, our results indicate that subtle changes to rDNA copy number between individuals may contribute to biologically relevant phenotypic variation.
Author Summary
The repeated rDNA array gives rise to the nucleolus, which is one of the first described intracellular structures and is known to be involved in key cellular processes such as stress response, cell cycle regulation, RNA modification, and production of more than 90% of all cellular RNAs (the ribosomal RNAs). The rDNA exists in excess; and, although many copies are inactivated through epigenetic mechanisms, the biological significance of inactive copies has been a matter of debate. We present a system that allows for the identification of global gene expression effects stemming from differences in rDNA copy number. We have discovered that deletions in the rDNA locus result in the differential expression of hundreds to thousands of genes. This raises the expectation that important phenotypic variation affecting health and disease might be traced to polymorphic variation in rDNA copy number. Furthermore, the manifold effects of rDNA copy number indicate that considering polymorphisms in the rDNA might bring new light to studies of epigenetic inheritance and its contribution to the heritability of complex traits.
PMCID: PMC3080856  PMID: 21533076
20.  Transcriptional activity of transposable elements in maize 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:601.
Mobile genetic elements represent a high proportion of the Eukaryote genomes. In maize, 85% of genome is composed by transposable elements of several families. First step in transposable element life cycle is the synthesis of an RNA, but few is known about the regulation of transcription for most of the maize transposable element families. Maize is the plant from which more ESTs have been sequenced (more than two million) and the third species in total only after human and mice. This allowed us to analyze the transcriptional activity of the maize transposable elements based on EST databases.
We have investigated the transcriptional activity of 56 families of transposable elements in different maize organs based on the systematic search of more than two million expressed sequence tags. At least 1.5% maize ESTs show sequence similarity with transposable elements. According to these data, the patterns of expression of each transposable element family is variable, even within the same class of elements. In general, transcriptional activity of the gypsy-like retrotransposons is higher compared to other classes. Transcriptional activity of several transposable elements is specially high in shoot apical meristem and sperm cells. Sequence comparisons between genomic and transcribed sequences suggest that only a few copies are transcriptionally active.
The use of powerful high-throughput sequencing methodologies allowed us to elucidate the extent and character of repetitive element transcription in maize cells. The finding that some families of transposable elements have a considerable transcriptional activity in some tissues suggests that, either transposition is more frequent than previously expected, or cells can control transposition at a post-transcriptional level.
PMCID: PMC3091746  PMID: 20973992
21.  A search for reverse transcriptase-coding sequences reveals new non-LTR retrotransposons in the genome of Drosophila melanogaster 
Genome Biology  2000;1(6):research0012.1-12.15.
Non-long terminal repeat (non-LTR) retrotransposons are eukaryotic mobile genetic elements that transpose by reverse transcription of an RNA intermediate. We have performed a systematic search for sequences matching the characteristic reverse transcriptase domain of non-LTR retrotransposons in the sequenced regions of the Drosophila melanogaster genome.
In addition to previously characterized BS, Doc, F, G, I and Jockey elements, we have identified new non-LTR retrotransposons: Waldo, You and JuanDm. Waldo elements are related to mosquito RTI elements. You to the Drosophila I factor, and JuanDm to mosquito Juan-A and Juan-C. Interestingly, all JuanDm elements are highly homogeneous in sequence, suggesting that they are recent components of the Drosophila genome.
The genome of D. melanogaster contains at least ten families of non-site-specific non-LTR retrotransposons representing three distinct clades. Many of these families contain potentially active members. Fine evolutionary analyses must await the more accurate sequences that are expected in the next future.
PMCID: PMC16141  PMID: 11178266
22.  LTRharvest, an efficient and flexible software for de novo detection of LTR retrotransposons 
BMC Bioinformatics  2008;9:18.
Transposable elements are abundant in eukaryotic genomes and it is believed that they have a significant impact on the evolution of gene and chromosome structure. While there are several completed eukaryotic genome projects, there are only few high quality genome wide annotations of transposable elements. Therefore, there is a considerable demand for computational identification of transposable elements. LTR retrotransposons, an important subclass of transposable elements, are well suited for computational identification, as they contain long terminal repeats (LTRs).
We have developed a software tool LTRharvest for the de novo detection of full length LTR retrotransposons in large sequence sets. LTRharvest efficiently delivers high quality annotations based on known LTR transposon features like length, distance, and sequence motifs. A quality validation of LTRharvest against a gold standard annotation for Saccharomyces cerevisae and Drosophila melanogaster shows a sensitivity of up to 90% and 97% and specificity of 100% and 72%, respectively. This is comparable or slightly better than annotations for previous software tools. The main advantage of LTRharvest over previous tools is (a) its ability to efficiently handle large datasets from finished or unfinished genome projects, (b) its flexibility in incorporating known sequence features into the prediction, and (c) its availability as an open source software.
LTRharvest is an efficient software tool delivering high quality annotation of LTR retrotransposons. It can, for example, process the largest human chromosome in approx. 8 minutes on a Linux PC with 4 GB of memory. Its flexibility and small space and run-time requirements makes LTRharvest a very competitive candidate for future LTR retrotransposon annotation projects. Moreover, the structured design and implementation and the availability as open source provides an excellent base for incorporating novel concepts to further improve prediction of LTR retrotransposons.
PMCID: PMC2253517  PMID: 18194517
23.  Complete nucleotide sequence of the Drosophila transposable element copia: homology between copia and retroviral proteins. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1985;5(7):1630-1638.
We have determined the complete nucleotide sequence of the copia element present at the white-apricot allele of the white locus in Drosophila melanogaster. This transposable element is 5,146 nucleotides long and contains a single long open reading frame of 4,227 nucleotides. Analysis of the coding potential of the large open reading frame, which appears to encode a polyprotein, revealed weak homology to a number of retroviral proteins, including a protease, nucleic acid-binding protein, and reverse transcriptase. Better homology existed between another part of the copia open reading frame and a region of the retroviral pol gene recently shown to be distinct from reverse transcriptase and required for the integration of circular DNA forms of the retroviral genome to form proviruses. Comparison of the copia sequence with those of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae transposable element Ty, several vertebrate retroviruses, and the D. melanogaster copia-like element 17.6 showed that Ty was most similar to copia, sharing amino acid sequence homology and organizational features not found in the other genetic elements.
PMCID: PMC367281  PMID: 2410772
24.  Genomic Organization of H2Av Containing Nucleosomes in Drosophila Heterochromatin 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e20511.
H2Av is a versatile histone variant that plays both positive and negative roles in transcription, DNA repair, and chromatin structure in Drosophila. H2Av, and its broader homolog H2A.Z, tend to be enriched toward 5′ ends of genes, and exist in both euchromatin and heterochromatin. Its organization around euchromatin genes and other features have been described in many eukaryotic model organisms. However, less is known about H2Av nucleosome organization in heterochromatin. Here we report the properties and organization of individual H2Av nucleosomes around genes and transposable elements located in Drosophila heterochromatic regions. We compare the similarity and differences with that found in euchromatic regions. Our analyses suggest that nucleosomes are intrinsically positioned on inverted repeats of DNA transposable elements such as those related to the “1360” element, but are not intrinsically positioned on retrotransposon-related elements.
PMCID: PMC3124471  PMID: 21738578
25.  Sequencing of Pooled DNA Samples (Pool-Seq) Uncovers Complex Dynamics of Transposable Element Insertions in Drosophila melanogaster 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(1):e1002487.
Transposable elements (TEs) are mobile genetic elements that parasitize genomes by semi-autonomously increasing their own copy number within the host genome. While TEs are important for genome evolution, appropriate methods for performing unbiased genome-wide surveys of TE variation in natural populations have been lacking. Here, we describe a novel and cost-effective approach for estimating population frequencies of TE insertions using paired-end Illumina reads from a pooled population sample. Importantly, the method treats insertions present in and absent from the reference genome identically, allowing unbiased TE population frequency estimates. We apply this method to data from a natural Drosophila melanogaster population from Portugal. Consistent with previous reports, we show that low recombining genomic regions harbor more TE insertions and maintain insertions at higher frequencies than do high recombining regions. We conservatively estimate that there are almost twice as many “novel” TE insertion sites as sites known from the reference sequence in our population sample (6,824 novel versus 3,639 reference sites, with on average a 31-fold coverage per insertion site). Different families of transposable elements show large differences in their insertion densities and population frequencies. Our analyses suggest that the history of TE activity significantly contributes to this pattern, with recently active families segregating at lower frequencies than those active in the more distant past. Finally, using our high-resolution TE abundance measurements, we identified 13 candidate positively selected TE insertions based on their high population frequencies and on low Tajima's D values in their neighborhoods.
Author Summary
Transposable elements (TE's) are parasitic genetic elements that spread by replicating themselves within a host genome. Most organisms are burdened with transposable elements; in fact, up to 80% of some genomes can consist of TE–derived DNA. Here, we use new sequencing technology to examine variation in genomic TE composition within a population at a finer scale and in a more unbiased fashion than has been possible before. We study a Portuguese population of D. melanogaster and find a large number of TE insertions, most of which occur in few individuals. Our analysis confirms that TE insertions are subject to purifying selection that counteracts their spread, and it suggests that the genome records waves of past TE invasions, with recently active elements occurring at low population frequency. We also find indications that TE insertions may sometimes have beneficial effects.
PMCID: PMC3266889  PMID: 22291611

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