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DNA-based transposable elements are present in the genomes of various organisms, and generally occur in autonomous and nonautonomous forms, with a good correspondence to complete and defective copies, respectively. In vertebrates, however, the vast majority of DNA-based elements occur only in the nonautonomous form. Until now, the only clear exception known has been the Tol2 element of the medaka fish, which still causes mutations in genes of the host species. Here, we report another exception: the Tol1 element of the same species. This element was thought likely to be a "dead" element like the vast majority of vertebrate elements, but recent identification of an autonomous Tol1 copy in a laboratory medaka strain gave rise to the possibility that the element is still "alive" in medaka natural populations. We examined variation in the structure of Tol1 copies through genomic Southern blot analysis, and revealed that 10 of the 32 fish samples examined contained full-length Tol1 copies in their genomes. The frequency at which these copies occur among Tol1 copies is at most 0.5%, yet some of them still have the ability to produce a functional transposase. The medaka fish thus harbors two active DNA-based elements in its genome, and is in this respect unique among vertebrates.


Akihiko Koga, Yuko Wakamatsu, Mitsuru Sakaizumi, Satoshi Hamaguchi, Atsuko Shimada. Distribution of complete and defective copies of the Tol1 transposable element in natural populations of the medaka fish Oryzias latipes. Genes & genetic systems. 2009 Oct;84(5):345-52

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PMID: 20154421

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