Retrotransposon insertion polymorphisms in six rice genes and their evolutionary history

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Retrotransposons are abundant in higher plant genomes. Although retrotransposons associated with plant genes have been identified, little is known about their evolutionary conservation at the level of species and subspecies. In the present study, we investigated the phylogenetic distribution of long terminal repeat (LTR) retrotransposon, long interspersed nuclear element (LINE) and short interspersed nuclear element (SINE) insertions in six genes in 95 cultivated and wild rice genotypes. These six genes are likely to be functional based on nonsynonymous (Ka) to synonymous (Ks) substitution ratios which were found to be significantly < 1. Different conservation patterns of these retrotransposons in genes were observed in cultivated and wild rice species. Four out of seven retrotransposon insertions appear to predate the ancestral Oryza AA genome. Two of these insertions in genes 4 and 5 occurred early in the evolutionary history of Oryza. Two retrotransposon insertions in gene 1 arose after the divergence of Asian cultivated rice from its wild ancestor. Furthermore, the retrotransposon insertion in gene 3 appears to have occurred in the ancestral lineage leading to temperate japonicas. Conservation of retrotransposon insertions in genes in specific groups, species, and lineages might be related to their specific function.

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