The availability of the sequenced Drosophila melanogaster genome provides an opportunity to study sequence variation between copies within transposable element families. In this study, we analyzed the 624 copies of 22 transposable element (TE) families (14 LTR retrotransposons, five non-LTR retrotransposons, and three transposons). LTR and non-LTR retrotransposons possessed far fewer divergent elements than the transposons, suggesting that the difference depends on the transposition mechanism. However, there was not a continuous range of divergence of the copies in each class, which were either very similar to the canonical elements, or very divergent from them. This sequence homogeneity among TE family copies matches the theoretical models of the dynamics of these repeated sequences. The sequenced Drosophila genome thus appears to be composed of a mixture of TEs that are still active and of ancient relics that have degenerated and the distribution of which along the chromosomes results from natural selection. This clearly demonstrates that the TEs are highly active within the genome, suggesting that the genetic variability of the Drosophila genome is still being renewed by the action of TEs.
PMID: 12869581 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]