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The Tc5 Family of Transposable Elements in Caenorhabditis Elegans

The Genetics Society of America
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  • Investigations


We have identified Tc5, a new family of transposable genetic elements in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. All wild-type varieties of C. elegans that we examined contain 4-6 copies of Tc5 per haploid genome, but we did not observe transposition or excision of Tc5 in these strains. Tc5 is active, however, in the mut-2 mutant strain TR679. Of 60 spontaneous unc-22 mutations isolated from strain TR679, three were caused by insertion of Tc5. All three Tc5-induced mutations are unstable; revertants result from precise or nearly precise excision of Tc5. Individual Tc5 elements are similar to each other in size and structure. The 3.2-kb element is bounded by inverted terminal repeats of nearly 500 bp. Eight of the ten terminal nucleotides of Tc5 are identical to the corresponding nucleotides of Tc4. Further, both elements recognize the same target site for insertion (CTNAG) and both cause duplication of the central TNA trinucleotide upon insertion. Other than these similarities to Tc4, Tc5 is unrelated to the three other transposon families (Tc1, Tc3 and Tc4) that transpose and excise at high frequency in mut-2 mutant strains. Mechanisms are discussed by which four apparently unrelated transposon families are all affected by the same mut-2 mutation.

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