Genes & Genetic Systems
Online ISSN : 1880-5779
Print ISSN : 1341-7568
ISSN-L : 1341-7568
Mini reviews
Structural and sequence diversity of eukaryotic transposable elements
Kenji K. Kojima
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2019 Volume 94 Issue 6 Pages 233-252


The majority of eukaryotic genomes contain a large fraction of repetitive sequences that primarily originate from transpositional bursts of transposable elements (TEs). Repbase serves as a database for eukaryotic repetitive sequences and has now become the largest collection of eukaryotic TEs. During the development of Repbase, many new superfamilies/lineages of TEs, which include Helitron, Polinton, Ginger and SINEU, were reported. The unique composition of protein domains and DNA motifs in TEs sometimes indicates novel mechanisms of transposition, replication, anti-suppression or proliferation. In this review, our current understanding regarding the diversity of eukaryotic TEs in sequence, protein domain composition and structural hallmarks is introduced and summarized, based on the classification system implemented in Repbase. Autonomous eukaryotic TEs can be divided into two groups: Class I TEs, also called retrotransposons, and Class II TEs, or DNA transposons. Long terminal repeat (LTR) retrotransposons, including endogenous retroviruses, non-LTR retrotransposons, tyrosine recombinase retrotransposons and Penelope-like elements, are well accepted groups of autonomous retrotransposons. They share reverse transcriptase for replication but are distinct in the catalytic components responsible for integration into the host genome. Similarly, at least three transposition machineries have been reported in eukaryotic DNA transposons: DDD/E transposase, tyrosine recombinase and HUH endonuclease combined with helicase. Among these, TEs with DDD/E transposase are dominant and are classified into 21 superfamilies in Repbase. Non-autonomous TEs are either simple derivatives generated by internal deletion, or are composed of several units that originated independently.

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© 2019 by The Genetics Society of Japan
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