Publications by authors named "Elena Casacuberta"

19 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Stable transfection in protist Corallochytriumlimacisporum identifies novel cellular features among unicellular animals relatives.

Curr Biol 2021 Jul 14. Epub 2021 Jul 14.

Institut de Biologia Evolutiva (CSIC-Universitat Pompeu Fabra), Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta 37-49, 08003 Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. Electronic address:

The evolutionary path from protists to multicellular animals remains a mystery. Recent work on the genomes of several unicellular relatives of animals has shaped our understanding of the genetic changes that may have occurred in this transition. However, the specific cellular modifications that took place to accommodate these changes remain unclear. To address this, we need to compare metazoan cells with those of their extant relatives, which are choanoflagellates, filastereans, ichthyosporeans, and corallochytreans/pluriformeans. Interestingly, these lineages display a range of developmental patterns potentially homologous to animal ones. Genetic tools have already been established in three of those lineages. However, there are no genetic tools available for Corallochytrea. We here report the development of stable transfection in the corallochytrean Corallochytrium limacisporum. Using these tools, we discern previously unknown biological features of C. limacisporum. In particular, we identify two different paths for cell division-binary fission and coenocytic growth-that reveal a non-linear life cycle. Additionally, we found that C. limacisporum is binucleate for most of its life cycle, and that, contrary to what happens in most eukaryotes, nuclear division is decoupled from cellular division. Moreover, its actin cytoskeleton shares characteristics with both fungal and animal cells. The establishment of these tools in C. limacisporum fills an important gap in the unicellular relatives of animals, opening up new avenues of research to elucidate the specific cellular changes that occurred in the evolution of animals.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2021.06.061DOI Listing
July 2021

Integrin-Mediated Adhesion in the Unicellular Holozoan Capsaspora owczarzaki.

Curr Biol 2020 11 27;30(21):4270-4275.e4. Epub 2020 Aug 27.

Institut de Biologia Evolutiva (CSIC-Universitat Pompeu Fabra), Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta 37-49, 08003 Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain; Departament de Genètica, Microbiologia i Estadística, Universitat de Barcelona, Av. Diagonal, 645, 08028 Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain; ICREA, Passeig Lluís Companys 23, 08010 Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. Electronic address:

In animals, cell-matrix adhesions are essential for cell migration, tissue organization, and differentiation, which have central roles in embryonic development [1-6]. Integrins are the major cell surface adhesion receptors mediating cell-matrix adhesion in animals. They are heterodimeric transmembrane proteins that bind extracellular matrix (ECM) molecules on one side and connect to the actin cytoskeleton on the other [7]. Given the importance of integrin-mediated cell-matrix adhesion in development of multicellular animals, it is of interest to discover when and how this machinery arose during evolution. Comparative genomic analyses have shown that core components of the integrin adhesome pre-date the emergence of animals [8-11]; however, whether it mediates cell adhesion in non-metazoan taxa remains unknown. Here, we investigate cell-substrate adhesion in Capsaspora owczarzaki, the closest unicellular relative of animals with the most complete integrin adhesome [11, 12]. Previous work described that the life cycle of C. owczarzaki (hereafter, Capsaspora) includes three distinct life stages: adherent; cystic; and aggregative [13]. Using an adhesion assay, we show that, during the adherent life stage, C. owczarzaki adheres to surfaces using actin-dependent filopodia. We show that integrin β2 and its associated protein vinculin localize as distinct patches in the filopodia. We also demonstrate that substrate adhesion and integrin localization are enhanced by mammalian fibronectin. Finally, using a specific antibody for integrin β2, we inhibited cell adhesion to a fibronectin-coated surface. Our results suggest that adhesion to the substrate in C. owczarzaki is mediated by integrins. We thus propose that integrin-mediated adhesion pre-dates the emergence of animals.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.08.015DOI Listing
November 2020

Genetic tool development in marine protists: emerging model organisms for experimental cell biology.

Nat Methods 2020 05 6;17(5):481-494. Epub 2020 Apr 6.

Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.

Diverse microbial ecosystems underpin life in the sea. Among these microbes are many unicellular eukaryotes that span the diversity of the eukaryotic tree of life. However, genetic tractability has been limited to a few species, which do not represent eukaryotic diversity or environmentally relevant taxa. Here, we report on the development of genetic tools in a range of protists primarily from marine environments. We present evidence for foreign DNA delivery and expression in 13 species never before transformed and for advancement of tools for eight other species, as well as potential reasons for why transformation of yet another 17 species tested was not achieved. Our resource in genetic manipulation will provide insights into the ancestral eukaryotic lifeforms, general eukaryote cell biology, protein diversification and the evolution of cellular pathways.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41592-020-0796-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7200600PMC
May 2020

Upregulation of E93 Gene Expression Acts as the Trigger for Metamorphosis Independently of the Threshold Size in the Beetle Tribolium castaneum.

Cell Rep 2019 04;27(4):1039-1049.e2

Institute of Evolutionary Biology (CSIC-Universitat Pompeu Fabra), Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta 37-49, 08003 Barcelona, Spain. Electronic address:

Body size in holometabolous insects is determined by the size at which the juvenile larva undergoes metamorphosis to the pupal stage. To undergo larva-pupa transition, larva must reach a critical developmental checkpoint, the threshold size (TS); however, the molecular mechanisms through which the TS cues this transition remain to be fully characterized. Here, we use the flour beetle Tribolium castaneum to characterize the molecular mechanisms underlying entry into metamorphosis. We found that T. castaneum reaches a TS at the beginning of the last larval instar, which is associated with the downregulation of TcKr-h1 and the upregulation of TcE93 and TcBr-C. Unexpectedly, we found that while there is an association between TS and TcE93 upregulation, it is the latter that constitutes the molecular trigger for metamorphosis initiation. In light of our results, we evaluate the interactions that control the larva-pupa transition and suggest alternative models.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2019.03.094DOI Listing
April 2019

Drosophila: Retrotransposons Making up Telomeres.

Viruses 2017 07 19;9(7). Epub 2017 Jul 19.

Institute of Evolutionary Biology, IBE, CSIC-Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona Spain, Passeig de la Barceloneta 37-49, 08003 Barcelona, Spain.

Drosophila and extant species are the best-studied telomerase exception. In this organism, telomere elongation is coupled with targeted retrotransposition of Healing Transposon (HeT-A) and Telomere Associated Retrotransposon (TART) with sporadic additions of Telomere Associated and HeT-A Related (TAHRE), all three specialized non-Long Terminal Repeat (non-LTR) retrotransposons. These three very special retroelements transpose in head to tail arrays, always in the same orientation at the end of the chromosomes but never in interior locations. Apparently, retrotransposon and telomerase telomeres might seem very different, but a detailed view of their mechanisms reveals similarities explaining how the loss of telomerase in a Drosophila ancestor could successfully have been replaced by the telomere retrotransposons. In this review, we will discover that although HeT-A, TART, and TAHRE are still the only examples to date where their targeted transposition is perfectly tamed into the telomere biology of Drosophila, there are other examples of retrotransposons that manage to successfully integrate inside and at the end of telomeres. Because the aim of this special issue is viral integration at telomeres, understanding the base of the telomerase exceptions will help to obtain clues on similar strategies that mobile elements and viruses could have acquired in order to ensure their survival in the host genome.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/v9070192DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5537684PMC
July 2017

NAP-1, Nucleosome assembly protein 1, a histone chaperone involved in Drosophila telomeres.

Insect Biochem Mol Biol 2016 Mar 30;70:111-5. Epub 2015 Dec 30.

Institute of Evolutionary Biology, IBE (CSIC-Universitat Pompeu Fabra), Passeig de la Barceloneta 37-49, Barcelona 08003, Spain. Electronic address:

Telomere elongation is a function that all eukaryote cells must accomplish in order to guarantee, first, the stability of the end of the chromosomes and second, to protect the genetic information from the inevitable terminal erosion. The targeted transposition of the telomere transposons HeT-A, TART and TAHRE perform this function in Drosophila, while the telomerase mechanism elongates the telomeres in most eukaryotes. In order to integrate telomere maintenance together with cell cycle and metabolism, different components of the cell interact, regulate, and control the proteins involved in telomere elongation. Different partners of the telomerase mechanism have already been described, but in contrast, very few proteins have been related with assisting the telomere transposons of Drosophila. Here, we describe for the first time, the implication of NAP-1 (Nucleosome assembly protein 1), a histone chaperone that has been involved in nuclear transport, transcription regulation, and chromatin remodeling, in telomere biology. We find that Nap-1 and HeT-A Gag, one of the major components of the Drosophila telomeres, are part of the same protein complex. We also demonstrate that their close interaction is necessary to guarantee telomere stability in dividing cells. We further show that NAP-1 regulates the transcription of the HeT-A retrotransposon, pointing to a positive regulatory role of NAP-1 in telomere expression. All these results facilitate the understanding of the transposon telomere maintenance mechanism, as well as the integration of telomere biology with the rest of the cell metabolism.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ibmb.2015.11.011DOI Listing
March 2016

Specific Localization of the Drosophila Telomere Transposon Proteins and RNAs, Give Insight in Their Behavior, Control and Telomere Biology in This Organism.

PLoS One 2015 12;10(6):e0128573. Epub 2015 Jun 12.

Department of Comparative Genomics, Institute of Evolutionary Biology, (CSIC-UPF), Barcelona, Spain.

Drosophila telomeres constitute a remarkable exception to the telomerase mechanism. Although maintaining the same cytological and functional properties as telomerase maintain telomeres, Drosophila telomeres embed the telomere retrotransposons whose specific and highly regulated terminal transposition maintains the appropriate telomere length in this organism. Nevertheless, our current understanding of how the mechanism of the retrotransposon telomere works and which features are shared with the telomerase system is very limited. We report for the first time a detailed study of the localization of the main components that constitute the telomeres in Drosophila, HeT-A and TART RNAs and proteins. Our results in wild type and mutant strains reveal localizations of HeT-A Gag and TART Pol that give insight in the behavior of the telomere retrotransposons and their control. We find that TART Pol and HeT-A Gag only co-localize at the telomeres during the interphase of cells undergoing mitotic cycles. In addition, unexpected protein and RNA localizations with a well-defined pattern in cells such as the ovarian border cells and nurse cells, suggest possible strategies for the telomere transposons to reach the oocyte, and/or additional functions that might be important for the correct development of the organism. Finally, we have been able to visualize the telomere RNAs at different ovarian stages of development in wild type and mutant lines, demonstrating their presence in spite of being tightly regulated by the piRNA mechanism.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0128573PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4467039PMC
April 2016

The JIL-1 kinase affects telomere expression in the different telomere domains of Drosophila.

PLoS One 2013 14;8(11):e81543. Epub 2013 Nov 14.

Institute of Evolutionary Biology, IBE (CSIC-UPF), Barcelona, Spain.

In Drosophila, the non-LTR retrotransposons HeT-A, TART and TAHRE build a head-to-tail array of repetitions that constitute the telomere domain by targeted transposition at the end of the chromosome whenever needed. As a consequence, Drosophila telomeres have the peculiarity to harbor the genes in charge of telomere elongation. Understanding telomere expression is important in Drosophila since telomere homeostasis depends in part on the expression of this genomic compartment. We have recently shown that the essential kinase JIL-1 is the first positive regulator of the telomere retrotransposons. JIL-1 mediates chromatin changes at the promoter of the HeT-A retrotransposon that are necessary to obtain wild type levels of expression of these telomere transposons. With the present study, we show how JIL-1 is also needed for the expression of a reporter gene embedded in the telomere domain. Our analysis, using different reporter lines from the telomere and subtelomere domains of different chromosomes, indicates that JIL-1 likely acts protecting the telomere domain from the spreading of repressive chromatin from the adjacent subtelomere domain. Moreover, the analysis of the 4R telomere suggests a slightly different chromatin structure at this telomere. In summary, our results strongly suggest that the action of JIL-1 depends on which telomere domain, which chromosome and which promoter is embedded in the telomere chromatin.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0081543PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3828246PMC
February 2015

The Putzig partners DREF, TRF2 and KEN are involved in the regulation of the Drosophila telomere retrotransposons, HeT-A and TART.

Mob DNA 2013 Jul 3;4(1):18. Epub 2013 Jul 3.

Institute of Evolutionary Biology (CSIC-Universitat Pompeu Fabra), Passeig de la Barceloneta, 37-49, Barcelona 08003, Spain.

Background: Telomere maintenance in Drosophila relies on the targeted transposition of three very special non-LTR retrotransposons, HeT-A, TART, and TAHRE (HTT). The sequences of the retrotransposon array build up the telomere chromatin in this organism. We have recently reported the role of the chromosomal protein Putzig/Z4 in maintaining a proper chromatin structure at the telomere domain of Drosophila. Because the Putzig protein has been found in different cellular complexes related with cell proliferation, development, and immunity, we decided to investigate whether the previously described Putzig partners, DREF/TRF2 and KEN, could also be involved in the telomere function in this organism.

Results: We have found that mutant alleles for Dref/Trf2 and Ken show alterations in HeT-A and TART expression, suggesting a possible role of these protein complexes in the regulation of the telomere retrotransposons. In agreement, both HeT-A and TART contain the specific DNA binding sequences for the DREF and the KEN protein proteins.

Conclusions: We have identified three new negative regulators involved in the control of the expression of the telomeric retrotransposons, Dref, Trf2, and Ken. Our results offer some clues on which other chromatin-related proteins might be involved in telomere regulation and retrotransposon control.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1759-8753-4-18DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3726405PMC
July 2013

The impact of transposable elements in environmental adaptation.

Mol Ecol 2013 Mar 7;22(6):1503-17. Epub 2013 Jan 7.

Institute of Evolutionary Biology (CSIC-Universitat Pompeu Fabra), Passeig Maritim de la Barceloneta 37-49, Barcelona, 08003, Spain.

Transposable elements (TEs) play an important role in the responsive capacity of their hosts in the face of environmental challenges. The variety of mechanisms by which TEs influence the capacity of adaptation of the host is as large as the variety of TEs and host genomes. For example, TEs might directly affect the function of individual genes, provide a mechanism for rapidly acquiring new genetic material and disseminate regulatory elements that can lead to the creation of stress-inducible regulatory networks. In this review, we summarize recent examples that are part of an increasing body of evidence suggesting a significant role of TEs in the host response to an ever-changing environment, both in prokaryote and in eukaryote organisms. We argue that in the near future, the increasing availability of genome sequences and the development of new tools to discover and analyse TE insertions will further show the relevant role of TEs in environmental adaptation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/mec.12170DOI Listing
March 2013

The chromosomal proteins JIL-1 and Z4/Putzig regulate the telomeric chromatin in Drosophila melanogaster.

PLoS Genet 2012 13;8(12):e1003153. Epub 2012 Dec 13.

Institute of Evolutionary Biology, Institut de Biologia Evolutiva (CSIC-UPF), Barcelona, Spain.

Drosophila telomere maintenance depends on the transposition of the specialized retrotransposons HeT-A, TART, and TAHRE. Controlling the activation and silencing of these elements is crucial for a precise telomere function without compromising genomic integrity. Here we describe two chromosomal proteins, JIL-1 and Z4 (also known as Putzig), which are necessary for establishing a fine-tuned regulation of the transcription of the major component of Drosophila telomeres, the HeT-A retrotransposon, thus guaranteeing genome stability. We found that mutant alleles of JIL-1 have decreased HeT-A transcription, putting forward this kinase as the first positive regulator of telomere transcription in Drosophila described to date. We describe how the decrease in HeT-A transcription in JIL-1 alleles correlates with an increase in silencing chromatin marks such as H3K9me3 and HP1a at the HeT-A promoter. Moreover, we have detected that Z4 mutant alleles show moderate telomere instability, suggesting an important role of the JIL-1-Z4 complex in establishing and maintaining an appropriate chromatin environment at Drosophila telomeres. Interestingly, we have detected a biochemical interaction between Z4 and the HeT-A Gag protein, which could explain how the Z4-JIL-1 complex is targeted to the telomeres. Accordingly, we demonstrate that a phenotype of telomere instability similar to that observed for Z4 mutant alleles is found when the gene that encodes the HeT-A Gag protein is knocked down. We propose a model to explain the observed transcriptional and stability changes in relation to other heterochromatin components characteristic of Drosophila telomeres, such as HP1a.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1003153DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3521665PMC
May 2013

HeT-A_pi1, a piRNA target sequence in the Drosophila telomeric retrotransposon HeT-A, is extremely conserved across copies and species.

PLoS One 2012 21;7(5):e37405. Epub 2012 May 21.

Departament de Ciències Experimentals i de la Salut (DCEXS), Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain.

The maintenance of the telomeres in Drosophila species depends on the transposition of the non-LTR retrotransposons HeT-A, TAHRE and TART. HeT-A and TART elements have been found in all studied species of Drosophila suggesting that their function has been maintained for more than 60 million years. Of the three elements, HeT-A is by far the main component of D. melanogaster telomeres and, unexpectedly for an element with an essential role in telomere elongation, the conservation of the nucleotide sequence of HeT-A is very low. In order to better understand the function of this telomeric retrotransposon, we studied the degree of conservation along HeT-A copies. We identified a small sequence within the 3' UTR of the element that is extremely conserved among copies of the element both, within D. melanogaster and related species from the melanogaster group. The sequence corresponds to a piRNA target in D. melanogaster that we named HeT-A_pi1. Comparison with piRNA target sequences from other Drosophila retrotransposons showed that HeT-A_pi1 is the piRNA target in the Drosophila genome with the highest degree of conservation among species from the melanogaster group. The high conservation of this piRNA target in contrast with the surrounding sequence, suggests an important function of the HeT-A_pi1 sequence in the co-evolution of the HeT-A retrotransposon and the Drosophila genome.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0037405PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3357415PMC
December 2012

Transcriptional analysis of the HeT-A retrotransposon in mutant and wild type stocks reveals high sequence variability at Drosophila telomeres and other unusual features.

BMC Genomics 2011 Nov 23;12:573. Epub 2011 Nov 23.

Institute of Evolutionary Biology (CSIC-UPF), Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta 37-49, 08003, Barcelona, Spain.

Background: Telomere replication in Drosophila depends on the transposition of a domesticated retroelement, the HeT-A retrotransposon. The sequence of the HeT-A retrotransposon changes rapidly resulting in differentiated subfamilies. This pattern of sequence change contrasts with the essential function with which the HeT-A is entrusted and brings about questions concerning the extent of sequence variability, the telomere contribution of different subfamilies, and whether wild type and mutant Drosophila stocks show different HeT-A scenarios.

Results: A detailed study on the variability of HeT-A reveals that both the level of variability and the number of subfamilies are higher than previously reported. Comparisons between GIII, a strain with longer telomeres, and its parental strain Oregon-R indicate that both strains have the same set of HeT-A subfamilies. Finally, the presence of a highly conserved splicing pattern only in its antisense transcripts indicates a putative regulatory, functional or structural role for the HeT-A RNA. Interestingly, our results also suggest that most HeT-A copies are actively expressed regardless of which telomere and where in the telomere they are located.

Conclusions: Our study demonstrates how the HeT-A sequence changes much faster than previously reported resulting in at least nine different subfamilies most of which could actively contribute to telomere extension in Drosophila. Interestingly, the only significant difference observed between Oregon-R and GIII resides in the nature and proportion of the antisense transcripts, suggesting a possible mechanism that would in part explain the longer telomeres of the GIII stock.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1471-2164-12-573DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3235214PMC
November 2011

Intracellular targeting of telomeric retrotransposon Gag proteins of distantly related Drosophila species.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2007 May 4;104(20):8391-6. Epub 2007 May 4.

Institute of Molecular Biology of Barcelona, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas and Institute for Research on Biomedicine of Barcelona (IRB), 08028 Barcelona, Spain.

The retrotransposons that maintain telomeres in Drosophila melanogaster have unique features that are shared across all Drosophila species but are not found in other retrotransposons. Comparative analysis of these features provides insight into their importance for telomere maintenance in Drosophila. Gag proteins encoded by HeT-A(mel) and TART(mel) are efficiently and cooperatively targeted to telomeres in interphase nuclei, a behavior that may facilitate telomere-specific transposition. Drosophila virilis, separated from D. melanogaster by 60 MY, has telomeres maintained by HeT-A(vir) and TART(vir). The Gag proteins from HeT-A(mel) and HeT-A(vir) have only 16% amino acid identity, yet several of their functional features are conserved. Using transient transfection of cultured cells from both species, we show that the telomere association of HeT-A(vir) Gag is indistinguishable from that of HeT-A(mel) Gag. Deletion derivatives show that organization of localization signals within the two proteins is strikingly similar. Gag proteins of TART(mel) and TART(vir) are only 13% identical. In contrast to HeT-A, surprisingly, TART(vir) Gag does not localize to the nucleus, although TART(vir) is a major component of D. virilis telomeres, and localization signals in the protein have much the same organization as in TART(mel) Gag. Thus, the mechanism of telomere targeting of TART(vir) differs, at least in a minor way, from that of TART(mel). Our findings suggest that, despite dramatic rates of protein evolution, protein and cellular determinants that correctly localize these Gag proteins have been conserved throughout the 60 MY separating these species.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0702566104DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1895960PMC
May 2007

RNA interference has a role in regulating Drosophila telomeres.

Genome Biol 2006 31;7(5):220. Epub 2006 May 31.

ICREA, IBMB-CSIC, Parc Científic de Barcelona, Josep Samitier 1-5, Barcelona 08028, Spain.

Unlike many other organisms, Drosophila maintains its telomeres by the transposition of retrotransposons to chromosome ends. Recent work shows that proteins in the RNA interference pathway specifically regulate the expression of these retrotransposons and frequency of transposition in germline cells, but do not affect retrotransposon expression or telomere function in the soma.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/gb-2006-7-5-220DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1779526PMC
August 2006

HeT-A elements in Drosophila virilis: retrotransposon telomeres are conserved across the Drosophila genus.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2003 Nov 12;100(24):14091-6. Epub 2003 Nov 12.

Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.

Drosophila melanogaster telomeres are composed of two retrotransposons, HeT-A and TART. Drosophila virilis has recently been shown to have telomere-specific TART elements with many of the characteristics of their D. melanogaster homologues. We now report identification of the second telomere-specific retrotransposon, HeT-A, from D. virilis. These results show that HeT-A and TART have been maintaining telomeres in Drosophila for more than the 60 million years that separate D. melanogaster and D. virilis. All Drosophila species and stocks studied have both of these telomeric elements, suggesting that the elements collaborate, an assumption supported by evidence from D. melanogaster that their Gag proteins interact. Although the HeT-A sequence evolves at a high rate, the element retains the unusual structural features that characterize all HeT-A homologues. These features may be involved in the role of HeT-A at the telomere. The Gag protein from HeT-Avir is as much like TART Gag from other species as it is like HeT-A Gag, suggesting that these Gags are evolving under similar constraints, probably to maintain appropriate interactions with host telomeres and possibly to allow collaborative interactions like those seen in D. melanogaster. In addition, we have identified a chimeric element, Uvir, carrying a pol coding sequence only distantly related to sequences thus far found in any telomere arrays.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1936193100DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC283551PMC
November 2003

Transposon telomeres are widely distributed in the Drosophila genus: TART elements in the virilis group.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2003 Mar 7;100(6):3363-8. Epub 2003 Mar 7.

Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.

Telomeres of most animals, plants, and unicellular eukaryotes are made up of tandem arrays of repeated DNA sequences produced by the enzyme telomerase. Drosophila melanogaster has an unusual variation on this theme; telomeres consist of tandem arrays of sequences produced by successive transpositions of two non-LTR retrotransposons, HeT-A and TART. To explore the phylogenetic distribution of these variant telomeres, we have looked for TART homologues in a distantly related Drosophila species, virilis. We have found elements that, despite many differences in nucleotide sequence, retain significant amino acid similarity to TART from D. melanogaster. These D. virilis TART elements have features that characterize TART elements in D. melanogaster: (i) they are found in tandem arrays on chromosome ends, (ii) they are not found in euchromatin, and (iii) they produce both sense and antisense transcripts, with the antisense RNA being in excess. The D. virilis TART elements have one surprising feature: both of the ORFs contain long stretches of the trinucleotide repeat CAX, encoding polyglutamine (with a few interspersed histidines). These long polyglutamine stretches are conserved in the three D. virilis elements sequenced. They do not interrupt any domains of known function in the TART proteins and are not seen in TART proteins from other species. Comparison of the D. virilis and D. melanogaster telomeres suggests that the retrotransposon mechanism of telomere maintenance may have arisen before the separation of the genus Drosophila.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0230353100DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC152298PMC
March 2003

Coevolution of the telomeric retrotransposons across Drosophila species.

Genetics 2002 Jul;161(3):1113-24

Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.

As in other eukaryotes, telomeres in Drosophila melanogaster are composed of long arrays of repeated DNA sequences. Remarkably, in D. melanogaster these repeats are produced, not by telomerase, but by successive transpositions of two telomere-specific retrotransposons, HeT-A and TART. These are the only transposable elements known to be completely dedicated to a role in chromosomes, a finding that provides an opportunity for investigating questions about the evolution of telomeres, telomerase, and the transposable elements themselves. Recent studies of D. yakuba revealed the presence of HeT-A elements with precisely the same unusual characteristics as HeT-A(mel) although they had only 55% nucleotide sequence identity. We now report that the second element, TART, is also a telomere component in D. yakuba; thus, these two elements have been evolving together since before the separation of the melanogaster and yakuba species complexes. Like HeT-A(yak), TART(yak) is undergoing concerted sequence evolution, yet they retain the unusual features TART(mel) shares with HeT-A(mel). There are at least two subfamilies of TART(yak) with significantly different sequence and expression. Surprisingly, one subfamily of TART(yak) has >95% sequence identity with a subfamily of TART(mel) and shows similar transcription patterns. As in D. melanogaster, other retrotransposons are excluded from the D. yakuba terminal arrays studied to date.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1462189PMC
http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/genetics/161.3.1113DOI Listing
July 2002
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