Int J Biol Sci 2006; 2(2):48-53. doi:10.7150/ijbs.2.48 This issue
Departament de Genètica. Facultat de Biologia. Universitat de Barcelona. 08028 Barcelona, Spain.
Non-LTR retrotransposons are common in vertebrate genomes and although present in invertebrates they appear at a much lower frequency. The cephalochordate amphioxus is the closest living relative to vertebrates and has been considered a good model for comparative analyses of genome expansions during vertebrate evolution. With the aim to assess the involvement of transposable elements in these events, we have analysed the non-LTR retrotransposons of Branchiostoma floridae. In silico searches have allowed to reconstruct non-LTR elements of six different clades (CR1, I, L1, L2, NeSL and RTE) and assess their structural features. According to the estimated copy number of these elements they account for less than 1% of the haploid genome, which reminds of the low abundance also encountered in the urochordate Ciona intestinalis. Amphioxus (B. floridae) and Ciona share a pre-vertebrate-like organization for the non-LTR retrotransposons (<150 copies, < 1% of the genome) versus the complexity associated to higher vertebrates (Homo sapiens >1.3·106 copies, > 20% of the genome).
Keywords: transposable elements, non-LTR retrotransposons, cephalochordates, genome evolution.