The evolution and diversity of DNA transposons in the genome of the lizard Anolis carolinensis

Peter A. Novick, Jeremy D. Smith, Mark Floumanhaft, David A. Ray, Boissinot Stéphane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


DNA transposons have considerably affected the size and structure of eukaryotic genomes and have been an important source of evolutionary novelties. In vertebrates, DNA transposons are discontinuously distributed due to the frequent extinction and recolonization of these genomes by active elements. We performed a detailed analysis of the DNA transposons in the genome of the lizard Anolis carolinensis, the first non-avian reptile to have its genome sequenced. Elements belonging to six of the previously recognized superfamilies of elements (hAT, Tc1/Mariner, Helitron, PIF/Harbinger, Polinton/Maverick, and Chapaev) were identified. However, only four (hAT, Tc1/Mariner, Helitron, and Chapaev) of these superfamilies have successfully amplified in the anole genome, producing 67 distinct families. The majority (57/67) are nonautonomous and demonstrate an extraordinary diversity of structure, resulting from frequent interelement recombination and incorporation of extraneous DNA sequences. The age distribution of transposon families differs among superfamilies and reveals different dynamics of amplification. Chapaev is the only superfamily to be extinct and is represented only by old copies. The hAT, Tc1/Mariner, and Helitron superfamilies show different pattern of amplification, yet they are predominantly represented by young families, whereas divergent families are exceedingly rare. Although it is likely that some elements, in particular long ones, are subjected to purifying selection and do not reach fixation, the majority of families are neutral and accumulate in the anole genome in large numbers. We propose that the scarcity of old copies in the anole genome results from the rapid decay of elements, caused by a high rate of DNA loss.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalGenome biology and evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2011


  • Anolis
  • Recombination
  • Transposase
  • Transposon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


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