A novel family of tRNA-derived SINEs in the colugo and two new retrotransposable markers separating dermopterans from primates

Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2003 Aug;28(2):341-9. doi: 10.1016/s1055-7903(03)00060-5.


Short interspersed nuclear elements (SINEs) provide a near homoplasy free and copious source of molecular evolutionary markers with precisely defined character polarity. Used as molecular cladistic markers in presence/absence analyses, they represent a powerful complement to phylogenetic reconstructions that are based on sequence comparisons on the level of nucleotide substitutions. Recent sequence comparisons of large data sets incorporating a broad eutherian taxonomic sample have led to considerations of the different primate infraorders to constitute a paraphyletic group. Statistically significant support against the monophyly of primates has been obtained by clustering the flying lemur-also termed colugo-(Cynocephalus, Dermoptera) amidst the primates as the sister group to anthropoid primates (New World monkeys, Old World monkeys, and hominoids). We discovered retrotransposed markers that clearly favor the monophyly of primates, with the markers specific to all extant primates but definitively absent at the orthologous loci in the flying lemur and other non-primates. By screening the colugo genome for phylogenetic informative SINEs, we also recovered a novel family of dermopteran specific SINE elements that we call CYN. This element is probably derived from the isoleucine tRNA and appears in monomeric, dimeric, and trimeric forms. It has no long tRNA unrelated region and no poly(A) linker between the monomeric subunits. The characteristics of the novel CYN-SINE family indicate a relatively recent history. Therefore, this SINE family is not suitable to solve the phylogenetic affiliation between dermopterans and primates. Nevertheless it is a valuable device to reconstruct the evolutionary steps from a functional tRNA to an interspersed SINE element.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA Primers / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Mammals / classification*
  • Mammals / genetics*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny*
  • RNA, Transfer / genetics*
  • Short Interspersed Nucleotide Elements / genetics*


  • DNA Primers
  • RNA, Transfer