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The genomic organization of HeT-A retroposons inDrosophila melanogaster


Members of theDrosophila HeT-A family of transposable elements are LINE-like retroposons that are found at telomeres and in centric heterochromatin. We recently characterized an active HeT-A element that had transposed to a broken chromosome end fewer than mine generations before it was isolated. The sequence arerangement of this element, called 9D4, most likely represents the organization of an actively transposing member of the HeT-A family. Here we assess the degree of divergence among members of the HeT-A family and test a model of telomere length maintenance based on HeT-A transposition. The region containing the single open reading frame of this element appears to be more highly conserved than the non-coding regions. The HeT-A element has been implicated in theDrosophila telomere elongation process, because frequent transpositions to chromosome ends are sufficient to counter-balance nucleotide loss due to incomplete DNA replication. The proposed elongation model and the hypothetical mechanism of HeT-A transposition predict a predominant orientation of HeT-A elements with their oligo (A) tails facing proximally at chromosome ends, as well as the existence of irregular tandem arrays of HeT-A elements at chromosome ends resulting from transposition of new HeT-A elements onto chromosome ends with existing elements. Twenty-nine different HeT-A fragments were isolated from directional libraries that were enriched in terminal DNA fragments. Sequence analyses of these fragments and comparisons with the organization of the HeT-A element, 9D4, fit these two predictions and support the model ofDrosophila telomere elongation by transposition of HeT-A elements.

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Correspondence to Harald Biessmann.

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Communicated by: W. Hennig

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Biessmann, H., Kasravi, B., Jakes, K. et al. The genomic organization of HeT-A retroposons inDrosophila melanogaster . Chromosoma 102, 297–305 (1993).

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  • Transposable Element
  • Telomere Length
  • Tandem Array
  • Break Chromosome
  • Hypothetical Mechanism