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Characterization of the Caenorhabditis elegans var. Bristol (strain N2) Tc1 elements and related transposable elements in Caenorhabditis briggsae Harris, Linda Janice


The regulation and evolution of the inverted repeat transposable element Tel, found in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, was studied. The stability of Tel elements in the N2 strain genome was investigated by cloning seventeen N2 Tel elements. To examine their structural integrity, sixteen cloned N2 Tel elements were restriction mapped and, in the case of some variants, their DNA was partially sequenced. Two restriction site variants, Tcl(Eco).12 and Tcl(Hpa-).9, were found. Tel(1.5).10b had lost 89 bp from one end, while Tcl(1.7).28 contained a 55 bp insertion. Two additional elements, Tcl(0.9).2 and Tcl(0.9).14, had different internal deletions. Each element was about 900 bp in length. The majority of Tel elements cloned from the N2 strain were found to have identical restriction maps. Somatic excision of Tel elements in the N2 genome was demonstrated. Tel elements in N2 are apparently both structurally and functionally intact. Nevertheless, mobilization of Tel elements in the N2 germline is restricted. Two new transposable element families, Barney (also known as TCbl) and TCb2, were discovered in a closely related nematode, Caenorhabditis briggsae due to Tel identity. These two families, distinguished through differential inter-element hybridization, showed multiple banding differences between strains. The open reading frames (ORFs) of Tel and Barney share 71% DNA sequence and 74% amino acid sequence identity. The putative terminus of Barney exhibits 68% identity with the 54 bp terminal repeat of Tel. Partial sequencing of TCb2 revealed that its ORF is equally diverged from Barney and Tel. The basis of the sequence heterogeneity observed in the C. briggsae transposons and not in the C. elegans transposons could be due to either horizontal transfer or alternate paths of divergence. Significant sequence identity was found between Tel, Barney, and HB1 (a transposable element from Drosophila melanogaster) within their coding regions and terminal repeats. These sequence similarities define a subclass of inverted repeat transposable elements inhabiting two different phylla, Arthropoda and Nematoda.

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