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Mavericks, a novel class of giant transposable elements widespread in eukaryotes and related to DNA viruses

Summary: Mavericks, a novel class of giant transposable elements widespread in
eukaryotes and related to DNA viruses
Ellen J. Pritham , Tasneem Putliwala, CÚdric Feschotte
The University of Texas at Arlington, The Department of Biology, Arlington, TX, United States
Received 14 July 2006; accepted 2 August 2006
Received by I. King Jordan
Available online 23 August 2006
We previously identified a group of atypical mobile elements designated Mavericks from the nematodes Caenorhabditis elegans and C.
briggsae and the zebrafish Danio rerio. Here we present the results of comprehensive database searches of the genome sequences available, which
reveal that Mavericks are widespread in invertebrates and non-mammalian vertebrates but show a patchy distribution in non-animal species, being
present in the fungi Glomus intraradices and Phakopsora pachyrhizi and in several single-celled eukaryotes such as the ciliate Tetrahymena
thermophila, the stramenopile Phytophthora infestans and the trichomonad Trichomonas vaginalis, but not detectable in plants. This distribution,
together with comparative and phylogenetic analyses of Maverick-encoded proteins, is suggestive of an ancient origin of these elements in
eukaryotes followed by lineage-specific losses and/or recurrent episodes of horizontal transmission. In addition, we report that Maverick elements
have amplified recently to high copy numbers in T. vaginalis where they now occupy as much as 30% of the genome. Sequence analysis confirms
that most Mavericks encode a retroviral-like integrase, but lack other open reading frames typically found in retroelements. Nevertheless, the
length and conservation of the target site duplication created upon Maverick insertion (5- or 6-bp) is consistent with a role of the integrase-like
protein in the integration of a double-stranded DNA transposition intermediate. Mavericks also display long terminal-inverted repeats but do not
contain ORFs similar to proteins encoded by DNA transposons. Instead, Mavericks encode a conserved set of 5 to 9 genes (in addition to the


Source: Arnold, Jonathan - Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center & Department of Genetics, University of Georgia
Feschotte, Cedric - Department of Biology, University of Texas at Arlington
Pritham, Ellen J. - Department of Biology, University of Texas at Arlington


Collections: Biology and Medicine; Biotechnology