Int J Biol Sci 2006; 2(2):61-65. doi:10.7150/ijbs.2.61 This issue

Research Paper

A SINE in the genome of the cephalochordate amphioxus is an Alu element

Linda Z. Holland

Marine Biology Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California

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Holland LZ. A SINE in the genome of the cephalochordate amphioxus is an Alu element. Int J Biol Sci 2006; 2(2):61-65. doi:10.7150/ijbs.2.61. Available from

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Transposable elements of about 300 bp, termed “short interspersed nucleotide elements or SINEs are common in eukaryotes. However, Alu elements, SINEs containing restriction sites for the AluI enzyme, have been known only from primates. Here I report the first SINE found in the genome of the cephalochordate, amphioxus. It is an Alu element of 375 bp that does not share substantial identity with any genomic sequences in vertebrates. It was identified because it was located in the FoxD regulatory region in a cosmid derived from one individual, but absent from the two FoxD alleles of BACs from a second individual. However, searches of sequences of BACs and genomic traces from this second individual gave an estimate of 50-100 copies in the amphioxus genome. The finding of an Alu element in amphioxus raises the question of whether Alu elements in amphioxus and primates arose by convergent evolution or by inheritance from a common ancestor. Genome-wide analyses of transposable elements in amphioxus and other chordates such as tunicates, agnathans and cartilaginous fishes could well provide the answer.

Keywords: Branchiostoma, transposon, cis-regulation, SINE, Alu, chordate evolution