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Journal of Applied Genetics 51(4), 2010, pp. 461-467

Presence of env-like sequences in Quercus suber retrotransposons

M. Carvalho, T. Ribeiro, W. Viegas, L. Morais-Cecilio, M. Rocheta

Abstract: The main difference between LTR retrotransposons and retroviruses is the presence of the envelope (env) gene in the latter, downstream of the pol gene. The env gene is involved in their infectious capacity. Here we report the presence of env-like sequences in the genome of Quercus suber (cork oak), one of the most economically important Portuguese species. These gene sequences were isolated through DNA amplification between RNaseH conserved motifs and 3 LTR, based on the structure of copia retrotransposons. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that almost all the clones isolated are clustered with Cyclops-2, a Ty3-gypsy element identified in Pisum sativum, except one clustered with gypsy and copia retroelements found in different species. This suggests the existence of a potential ancestral sequence of the env gene, prior to the separation of Ty3-gypsy and Ty1-copia retrotransposons. Additionally, the isolated env-like sequences showed 2639% of homology with env-like sequences characterized in viruses. The origin of env-like sequences in retrotransposons from host plant taxa is discussed.

Key words: copia retroelements, envelope-like gene, cork oak, retrotransposons, retrovirus.

Correspondence: M. Rocheta, Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Universidade Tecnica de Lisboa, Centro de Botanica Aplicada r Agricultura, Tapada da Ajuda, 1349-017 Lisboa, Portugal

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