Analysis of genes associated with retrotransposons in the rice genome

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Department of Biological Sciences


Retrotransposons comprise a significant fraction of the rice genome. Despite their prevalence, the effects of retrotransposon insertions are not well understood, especially with regard to how they affect the expression of genes. In this study, we identified one-sixth of rice genes as being associated with retrotransposons, with insertions either in the gene itself or within its putative promoter region. Among genes with insertions in the promoter region, the likelihood of the gene being expressed was shown to be directly proportional to the distance of the retrotransposon from the translation start site. In addition, retrotransposon insertions in the transcribed region of the gene were found to be positively correlated with the presence of alternative splicing forms. Furthermore, preferential association of retrotransposon insertions with genes in several functional classes was identified. Some of the retrotransposons that are part of full-length cDNA (fl-cDNA) contribute splice sites and give rise to novel exons. Several interesting trends concerning the effects of retrotransposon insertions on gene expression were identified. Taken together, our data suggests that retrotransposon association with genes have a role in gene regulation. The data presented in this study provides a foundation for experimental studies to determine the role of retrotransposons in gene regulation.

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