Non-LTR R2 Element Evolutionary Patterns: Phylogenetic Incongruences, Rapid Radiation and the Maintenance of Multiple Lineages

Luchetti, Andrea; Mantovani, Barbara
February 2013
PLoS ONE;Feb2013, Vol. 8 Issue 2, p1
Academic Journal
Retrotransposons of the R2 superclade specifically insert within the 28S ribosomal gene. They have been isolated from a variety of metazoan genomes and were found vertically inherited even if their phylogeny does not always agree with that of the host species. This was explained with the diversification/extinction of paralogous lineages, being proved the absence of horizontal transfer. We here analyze the widest available collection of R2 sequences, either newly isolated from recently sequenced genomes or drawn from public databases, in a phylogenetic framework. Results are congruent with previous analyses, but new important issues emerge. First, the N-terminal end of the R2-B clade protein, so far unknown, presents a new zinc fingers configuration. Second, the phylogenetic pattern is consistent with an ancient, rapid radiation of R2 lineages: being the estimated time of R2 origin (850–600 Million years ago) placed just before the metazoan Cambrian explosion, the wide element diversity and the incongruence with the host phylogeny could be attributable to the sudden expansion of available niches represented by host’s 28S ribosomal genes. Finally, we detect instances of coexisting multiple R2 lineages showing a non-random phylogenetic pattern, strongly similar to that of the “library” model known for tandem repeats: a collection of R2s were present in the ancestral genome and then differentially activated/repressed in the derived species. Models for activation/repression as well as mechanisms for sequence maintenance are also discussed within this framework.


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