skip to main content


The NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) system and access will be unavailable from 11:00 PM ET on Thursday, May 23 until 2:00 AM ET on Friday, May 24 due to maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Title: Chiropterans Are a Hotspot for Horizontal Transfer of DNA Transposons in Mammalia

Horizontal transfer of transposable elements (TEs) is an important mechanism contributing to genetic diversity and innovation. Bats (order Chiroptera) have repeatedly been shown to experience horizontal transfer of TEs at what appears to be a high rate compared with other mammals. We investigated the occurrence of horizontally transferred (HT) DNA transposons involving bats. We found over 200 putative HT elements within bats; 16 transposons were shared across distantly related mammalian clades, and 2 other elements were shared with a fish and two lizard species. Our results indicate that bats are a hotspot for horizontal transfer of DNA transposons. These events broadly coincide with the diversification of several bat clades, supporting the hypothesis that DNA transposon invasions have contributed to genetic diversification of bats.

more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; more » ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; « less
Corporate Creator(s):
Arkhipova, Irina
Publisher / Repository:
Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Molecular Biology and Evolution
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Transposable elements (TEs) are mobile genetic parasites that frequently invade new host genomes through horizontal transfer. Invading TEs often exhibit a burst of transposition, followed by reduced transposition rates as repression evolves in the host. We recreated the horizontal transfer of P-element DNA transposons into a Drosophila melanogaster host and followed the expansion of TE copies and evolution of host repression in replicate laboratory populations reared at different temperatures. We observed that while populations maintained at high temperatures rapidly go extinct after TE invasion, those maintained at lower temperatures persist, allowing for TE spread and the evolution of host repression. We also surprisingly discovered that invaded populations experienced recurrent insertion of P-elements into a specific long non-coding RNA, lncRNA:CR43651, and that these insertion alleles are segregating at unusually high frequency in experimental populations, indicative of positive selection. We propose that, in addition to driving the evolution of repression, transpositional bursts of invading TEs can drive molecular adaptation.

    more » « less
  2. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Transposable elements (TEs) pervade most eukaryotic genomes. The repetitive nature of TEs complicates the analysis of their expression. Evaluation of the expression of both TE families (using unique and multi-mapping reads) and specific elements (using uniquely mapping reads) in leaf tissue of three maize (Zea mays) inbred lines subjected to heat or cold stress reveals no evidence for genome-wide activation of TEs; however, some specific TE families generate transcripts only in stress conditions. There is substantial variation for which TE families exhibit stress-responsive expression in the different genotypes. In order to understand the factors that drive expression of TEs, we focused on a subset of families in which we could monitor expression of individual elements. The stress-responsive activation of a TE family can often be attributed to a small number of elements in the family that contains regions lacking DNA methylation. Comparisons of the expression of TEs in different genotypes revealed both genetic and epigenetic variation. Many of the specific TEs that are activated in stress in one inbred are not present in the other inbred, explaining the lack of activation. Among the elements that are shared in both genomes but only expressed in one genotype, we found that many exhibit differences in DNA methylation such that the genotype without expression is fully methylated. This study provides insights into the regulation of expression of TEs in normal and stress conditions and highlights the role of chromatin variation between elements in a family or between genotypes for contributing to expression variation. The highly repetitive nature of many TEs complicates the analysis of their expression. Although most TEs are not expressed, some exhibits expression in certain tissues or conditions. We monitored the expression of both TE families (using unique and multi-mapping reads) and specific elements (using uniquely mapping reads) in leaf tissue of three maize (Zea mays) inbred lines subjected to heat or cold stress. While genome-wide activation of TEs did not occur, some TE families generated transcripts only in stress conditions with variation by genotype. To better understand the factors that drive expression of TEs, we focused on a subset of families in which we could monitor expression of individual elements. In most cases, stress-responsive activation of a TE family was attributed to a small number of elements in the family. The elements that contained small regions lacking DNA methylation regions showed enriched expression while fully methylated elements were rarely expressed in control or stress conditions. The cause of varied expression in the different genotypes was due to both genetic and epigenetic variation. Many specific TEs activated by stress in one inbred were not present in the other inbred. Among the elements shared in both genomes, full methylation inhibited expression in one of the genotypes. This study provides insights into the regulation of TE expression in normal and stress conditions and highlights the role of chromatin variation between elements in a family or between genotypes for contributing to expression. 
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Mobile genetic elements (MGEs) are transient genetic material that can move either within a single organism's genome or between individuals or species. While historically considered “junk” DNA (i.e., deleterious or at best neutral), more recent studies reveal the potential adaptive advantages MGEs provide in lineages across the tree of life. Ciliates, a group of single‐celled microbial eukaryotes characterized by nuclear dimorphism, exemplify how epigenetic influences from MGEs shape genome architecture and patterns of molecular evolution. Ciliate nuclear dimorphism may have evolved as a response to transposon invasion and ciliates have since co‐opted transposons to carry out programmed DNA deletion. Another example of the effect of MGEs is in providing mechanisms for lateral gene transfer (LGT) from bacteria, which introduces genetic diversity and, in several cases, may drive ecological specialization in ciliates. As a third example, the integration of viral DNA, likely through transduction, provides new genetic materials and can change the way host cells defend themselves against other viral pathogens. We argue that the acquisition of MGEs through non‐Mendelian patterns of inheritance, coupled with their effects on ciliate genome architecture and persistence throughout evolutionary history, exemplify how the transmission of mobile elements should be considered a mechanism of transgenerational epigenetic inheritance.

    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Genomic imprinting is an epigenetic phenomenon in which differential allele expression occurs in a parent-of-origin-dependent manner. Imprinting in plants is tightly linked to transposable elements (TEs), and it has been hypothesized that genomic imprinting may be a consequence of demethylation of TEs. Here, we performed high-throughput sequencing of ribonucleic acids from four maize (Zea mays) endosperms that segregated newly silenced Mutator (Mu) transposons and identified 110 paternally expressed imprinted genes (PEGs) and 139 maternally expressed imprinted genes (MEGs). Additionally, two potentially novel paternally suppressed MEGs are associated with de novo Mu insertions. In addition, we find evidence for parent-of-origin effects on expression of 407 conserved noncoding sequences (CNSs) in maize endosperm. The imprinted CNSs are largely localized within genic regions and near genes, but the imprinting status of the CNSs are largely independent of their associated genes. Both imprinted CNSs and PEGs have been subject to relaxed selection. However, our data suggest that although MEGs were already subject to a higher mutation rate prior to their being imprinted, imprinting may be the cause of the relaxed selection of PEGs. In addition, although DNA methylation is lower in the maternal alleles of both the maternally and paternally expressed CNSs (mat and pat CNSs), the difference between the two alleles in H3K27me3 levels was only observed in pat CNSs. Together, our findings point to the importance of both transposons and CNSs in genomic imprinting in maize.

    more » « less
  5. Nearly all eukaryotes carry DNA transposons of the Robertson’s Mutator ( Mu ) superfamily, a widespread source of genome instability and genetic variation. Despite their pervasive impact on host genomes, much remains unknown about the evolution of these transposons. Transposase recognition of terminal inverted repeats (TIRs) is thought to drive and constrain coevolution of MuDR transposase genes and TIRs. To address the extent of this relationship and its impact, we compared separate phylogenies of TIRs and MuDR gene sequences from Mu elements in the maize genome. Five major clades were identified. As expected, most Mu elements were bound by highly similar TIRs from the same clade (homomorphic type). However, a subset of elements contained dissimilar TIRs derived from divergent clades. These “heteromorphs” typically occurred in multiple copies indicating active transposition in the genome. In addition, analysis of internal sequences showed that exchanges between elements having divergent TIRs produced new mudra and mudrb gene combinations. In several instances, TIR homomorphs had been regenerated within a heteromorph clade with retention of distinctive internal MuDR sequence combinations. Results reveal that recombination between divergent clades facilitates independent evolution of transposase ( mudra ), transposase-binding targets (TIRs), and capacity for insertion ( mudrb ) of active Mu elements. This mechanism would be enhanced by the preference of Mu insertions for recombination-rich regions near the 5′ ends of genes. We suggest that cycles of recombination give rise to alternating homo- and heteromorph forms that enhance the diversity on which selection for Mu fitness can operate. 
    more » « less