Transposable elements (TEs) are widespread genomic parasites, and their evolution has remained a critical question in evolutionary genomics. Here, we study the relatively unexplored epigenetic impacts of TEs and provide the first genome-wide quantification of such effects in D. melanogaster and D. simulans. Surprisingly, the spread of repressive epigenetic marks (histone H3K9me2) to nearby DNA occurs at >50% of euchromatic TEs, and can extend up to 20 kb. This results in differential epigenetic states of genic alleles and, in turn, selection against TEs. Interestingly, the lower TE content in D. simulans compared to D. melanogaster correlates with stronger epigenetic effects of TEs and higher levels of host genetic factors known to promote epigenetic silencing. Our study demonstrates that the epigenetic effects of euchromatic TEs, and host genetic factors modulating such effects, play a critical role in the evolution of TEs both within and between species.
Lee, Y. C. G., & Karpen, G. H. (2017). Pervasive epigenetic effects of drosophila euchromatic transposable elements impact their evolution. ELife, 6. https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.25762