Lizards and LINEs: Selection and demography affect the fate of L1 retrotransposons in the genome of the green anole (Anolis carolinensis)

Marc Tollis, Stéphane Boissinot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Autonomous retrotransposons lacking long terminal repeats (LTR) account for much of the variation in genome size and structure among vertebrates. Mammalian genomes contain hundreds of thousands of non-LTR retrotransposon copies, mostly resulting from the amplification of a single clade known as L1. The genomes of teleost fish and squamate reptiles contain a much more diverse array of non-LTR retro transposon families, whereas copy number is relatively low. The majority of non-LTR retro transposon insertions in non mammalian vertebrates also appear to be very recent, suggesting strong purifying selection limits the accumulation of non-LTR retrotransposon copies. It is however unclear whether this turnover model, originally proposed in Drosophila, applies to non mammalian vertebrates. Here, we studied the population dynamics of L1 in the green anole lizard (Anolis carolinensis). We found that although most L1 elements are recent in this genome, truncated insertions accumulate readily, and many are fixed at both the population and species level. In contrast, full-length L1 insertions are found at lower population frequencies, suggesting that the turnover model only applies to longer L1 elements in Anolis.We also found that full-length L1 inserts are more likely to be fixed in populationsof small effective size, suggesting that the strength of purifying selection against deleterious alleles ishighlydependenton host demographic history. Similar mechanisms seem to be controlling the fate of non-LTR retrotransposons in both Anolis and teleostean fish, which suggests that mammals have considerably diverged from the ancestral vertebrate in terms of how they interact with their intragenomic parasites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1754-1768
Number of pages15
JournalGenome biology and evolution
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2013


  • Anolis carolinensis
  • Green anole
  • Non-LTR retrotransposon
  • Population genomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


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