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Lerat, E., Burlet, N., BiĆ©mont, C., Vieira, C. (2011). Comparative analysis of transposable elements in the melanogaster subgroup sequenced genomes.  Gene 473(2): 100--109.
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Transposable elements (TEs) are indwelling components of genomes, and their dynamics have been a driving force in genome evolution. Although we now have more information concerning their amounts and characteristics in various organisms, we still have little data from overall comparisons of their sequences in very closely-related species. While the Drosophila melanogaster genome has been extensively studied, we have only limited knowledge regarding the precise TE sequences in the genomes of the related species Drosophila simulans, Drosophila sechellia and Drosophila yakuba. In this study we analyzed the number and structure of TE copies in the sequenced genomes of these four species. Our findings show that, unexpectedly, the number of TE insertions in D. simulans is greater than that in D. melanogaster, but that most of the copies in D. simulans are degraded and in small fragments, as in D. sechellia and D. yakuba. This suggests that all three species were invaded by numerous TEs a long time ago, but have since regulated their activity, as the present TE copies are degraded, with very few full-length elements. In contrast, in D. melanogaster, a recent activation of TEs has resulted in a large number of almost-identical TE copies. We have detected variants of some TEs in D. simulans and D. sechellia, that are almost identical to the reference TE sequences in D. melanogaster, suggesting that D. melanogaster has recently been invaded by active TE variants from the other species. Our results indicate that the three species D. simulans, D. sechellia, and D. yakuba seem to be at a different stage of their TE life cycle when compared to D. melanogaster. Moreover, we show that D. melanogaster has been invaded by active TE variants for several TE families likely to come from D. simulans or the ancestor of D. simulans and D. sechellia. The numerous horizontal transfer events implied to explain these results could indicate introgression events between these species.

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