Phylogenetic evidence for Ty1-copia-like endogenous retroviruses in plant genomes
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SIRE-1 is a multi-copy, Ty1-copia-like retroelement family found in the genome of Glycine max. A sequenced SIRE-1 genomic copy has an uninterrupted ORF that can be translated into a gag-pol polyprotein, followed by an unprecedented second ORF whose conceptual translation yielded a theoretical protein predicted to possess many of the same secondary structural elements found in mammalian retroviral envelope proteins. Similar, but clearly pseudogenic, envelope-like sequences were recovered from conceptual translations of 10 Arabidopsis Gen-Bank accessions. All were associated with identifiable Ty1-copia-like retroelements. Phylogenetic analysis of the adjacent ribonuclease H regions from these sequences and three similarly endowed elements, two from maize and one from tomato, indicate that the 14 elements constitute a monophyletic group distinct from several closely related plant Ty1-copia-like elements in which polis immediately followed by a downstream LTR. The conservation of identifiable env-like gene features suggests that these plant elements are endogenous retroviruses whose ancestors were acquired from animal vectors. The finding that the env and env-less retroelements identified in this study form distinct lineages does not support the hypothesis that horizontal transmission of retrotransposons is sponsored by ancestral infectious retroviruses that subsequently lost all traces of env genes.
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