The X element, a novel LINE transposable element from Drosophila melanogaster
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Whilst analysing the nature of repeated DNA sequences in the transition zone between euchromatin and heterochromatin at the base of the X chromosome of Drosophila melanogaster, we discovered a novel transposable element of the LINE class that we have named the X element. Several apparently complete elements have been cloned and analysed, and one has been sequenced. It is 4740 bp long, with a polyadenylation sequence and a run of A residues at one end. It contains two ORFs: the 5′ ORF is related to the retroviral gag gene and encodes a protein with cysteine-rich motifs that are thought to form a "zinc-knuckle" in a nucleic-acid binding protein; the 3′ ORF encodes a putative reverse transcriptase that includes the conserved domains found in reverse transcriptases from other LINEs and retroviruses. The DNA sequence and the sequences of the predicted gene products are most similar to other LINEs from D. melanogaster, such as the F, jockey, Doc and BS elements. Southern analysis suggests that there are at least 30 copies in the genome and that some elements are polymorphic between different strains. Analysis of the DNA sequence of the euchromatic arms of the Drosophila genome identified five full-length elements and a similar number of elements that were intact at the 3′ end but had variable 5′ truncations. Sequences flanking two different insertion sites were used to design PCR primers to assess the occupancy of sites in wild-type flies of different geographical origins. Flies that lacked each of the insertions were found, suggesting that the element is an active transposon.
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