, Volume 131, Issue 3, pp 315-324
Date: 10 Mar 2007

The use of a non-LTR element to date the formation of the Sdic gene cluster

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Transposable elements comprise a considerable part of eukaryotic genomes, and there is increasing evidence for their role in the evolution of genomes. The number of active transposable elements present in the host genome at any given time is probably small relative to the number of elements that no longer transpose. The elements that have lost the ability to transpose tend to evolve neutrally. For example, non-LTR retrotransposons often become 5′ truncated due to their own transposition mechanism and hence lose their ability to transpose. The resulting transposons can be characterized as “dead-on-arrival” (DOA) elements. Because they are abundant and ubiquitous, and evolve neutrally in the location where they were inserted, these DOA non-LTR elements make a useful tool to date molecular events. There are four copies of a “dead-on-arrival” RT1C element on the recently formed Sdic gene cluster of Drosophila melanogaster, that are not present in the equivalent region of the other species of the melanogaster subgroup. The life history of the RT1C elements in the genome of D. melanogaster was used to determine the insertion chronology of the elements in the cluster and to date the duplication events that originated this cluster.