Transposable elements (TEs) have played important roles in the evolution of genes and genomes of higher eukaryotes. Among the TEs in the rice genome, miniature inverted-repeat transposable elements (MITEs) exist at the highest copy number. Some of MITEs in the rice genome contain poly(A) signals and putative cis-acting regulatory domains. Insertion events of such MITEs may have caused many structural and functional changes of genomes. The genome-wide examination of MITE-derived sequences could elucidate the contribution of MITEs to gene evolution. Here we report on the MITEs in the rice genome that have contributed to the emergence of novel genes and the expansion of the sequence diversity of the genome and mRNAs. Of the MITE-derived sequences, approximately 6000 were found in gene regions (exons and introns) and 67,000 in intergenic regions. In gene regions, most MITEs are located in introns rather than exons. For over 300 protein-coding genes, coding sequences, poly(A) sites, transcription start sites, and splicing sites overlap with MITEs. These sequence alterations via MITE insertions potentially affect the biological functions of gene products. Many MITE insertions also exist in 5’-untranslated regions (UTRs), 3’-UTRs, and in the proximity of genes. Although mutations in these non-protein coding regions do not alter protein sequences, these regions have key roles for gene regulation. Moreover, MITE family sequences (Tourist, Stowaway, and others) are unevenly distributed in introns. Our findings suggest that MITEs may have contributed to expansion of genome diversity by causing alterations not only in gene functions but also in regulation of many genes.
2008 by The Genetics Society of Japan