Despite a wide distribution of transposable elements (TEs) in the genomes of higher eukaryotes, much of their evolutionary significance remains unclear. Recent studies have indicated that TEs are involved with biological processes such as gene regulation and the generation of new exons in mammals. In addition, the completion of the genome sequencings in Arabidopsis thaliana and Oryza sativa has permitted scientist to describe a genome-wide overview in plants. In this study, we examined the positions of TEs in the genome of O. sativa. Although we found that more than 10% of the structural genes contained TEs, they were underrepresented in exons compared with non-exonic regions. TEs also appeared to be inserted preferentially in 3′-untranslated regions in exons. These results suggested that purifying selection against TE insertion has played a major role during evolution. Moreover, our comparison of the numbers of TEs in the protein-coding regions between single copy genes and duplicate genes showed that TEs were more frequent in duplicate than single copy genes. This observation indicated that gene duplication events created a large number of functionally redundant genes. Subsequently, many of them were destroyed by TEs because the redundant copies were released from purifying selection. Another biological role of TEs was found to be the recruitment of new exons. We found that ∼ 2% of protein-coding genes contained TEs in their coding regions. Insertion of TEs in genic regions may have the potential to be an evolutionary driving force for the creation of new biological functions. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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