SINEs, evolution and genome structure in the opossum
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Short INterspersed Elements (SINEs) are non-autonomous retrotransposons, usually between 100 and 500 base pairs (bp) in length, which are ubiquitous components of eukaryotic genomes. Their activity, distribution, and evolution can be highly informative on genomic structure and evolutionary processes. To determine recent activity, we amplified more than one hundred SINE1 loci in a panel of 43 M. domestica individuals derived from five diverse geographic locations. The SINE1 family has expanded recently enough that many loci were polymorphic, and the SINE1 insertion-based genetic distances among populations reflected geographic distance. Genome-wide comparisons of SINE1 densities and GC content revealed that high SINE1 density is associated with high GC content in a few long and many short spans. Young SINE1s, whether fixed or polymorphic, showed an unbiased GC content preference for insertion, indicating that the GC preference accumulates over long time periods, possibly in periodic bursts. SINE1 evolution is thus broadly similar to human Alu evolution, although it has an independent origin. High GC content adjacent to SINE1s is strongly correlated with bias towards higher AT to GC substitutions and lower GC to AT substitutions. This is consistent with biased gene conversion, and also indicates that like chickens, but unlike eutherian mammals, GC content heterogeneity (isochore structure) is reinforced by substitution processes in the M. domestica genome. Nevertheless, both high and low GC content regions are apparently headed towards lower GC content equilibria, possibly due to a relative shift to lower recombination rates in the recent Monodelphis ancestral lineage. Like eutherians, metatherian (marsupial) mammals have evolved high CpG substitution rates, but this is apparently a convergence in process rather than a shared ancestral state.
author list (cited authors)
Gu, W., Ray, D. A., Walker, J. A., Barnes, E. W., Gentles, A. J., Samollow, P. B., ... Pollock, D. D.