Grande1 elements constitute a family of Ty3 retrotransposons present in the Zea genus in more than 1000 copies in Zea diploperennis and maize. The sequences of three Grande1 flanking regions, two from Z. diploperennis and one from maize, reveal transposable elements as insertion targets, suggesting a preferential integration of Grande1 elements into other transposable elements. These retrotransposons are remarkable for their large size of around 14 kb, which is a consequence of a very large 3′ region of more than 7 kb. Atypical entities within this region are two arrays of unrelated tandem repeats with potential stable stem-loop structures. A large portion of the same region is occupied by ORFs, although only ORF23, whose function is unknown, is presumably transcribed in antisense orientation to the reverse transcriptase ORF. Only ORF23 has a codon usage similar to the one tabulated for highly-expressed maize genes. Correspondingly, the transcript of 900 b that hybridizes with ORF23 probes is found in all the maize tissues explored. This is despite the high level of methylation in the DNA of Grande1. Genomic RNA has not been detected in any tissue or situation studied, probably reflecting a non-functional retrotransposon. The origin of ORF23 and the remainder 3′ region might be due to a transduction event.
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