Transfer RNA gene-targeted integration: an adaptation of retrotransposable elements to survive in the compact Dictyostelium discoideum genome

Cytogenet Genome Res. 2005;110(1-4):288-98. doi: 10.1159/000084961.


Almost every organism carries along a multitude of molecular parasites known as transposable elements (TEs). TEs influence their host genomes in many ways by expanding genome size and complexity, rearranging genomic DNA, mutagenizing host genes, and altering transcription levels of nearby genes. The eukaryotic microorganism Dictyostelium discoideum is attractive for the study of fundamental biological phenomena such as intercellular communication, formation of multicellularity, cell differentiation, and morphogenesis. D. discoideum has a highly compacted, haploid genome with less than 1 kb of genomic DNA separating coding regions. Nevertheless, the D. discoideum genome is loaded with 10% of TEs that managed to settle and survive in this inhospitable environment. In depth analysis of D. discoideum genome project data has provided intriguing insights into the evolutionary challenges that mobile elements face when they invade compact genomes. Two different mechanisms are used by D. discoideum TEs to avoid disruption of host genes upon retrotransposition. Several TEs have invented the specific targeting of tRNA gene-flanking regions as a means to avoid integration into coding regions. These elements have been dispersed on all chromosomes, closely following the distribution of tRNA genes. By contrast, TEs that lack bona fide integration specificities show a strong bias to nested integration, thus forming large TE clusters at certain chromosomal loci that are hardly resolved by bioinformatics approaches. We summarize our current view of D. discoideum TEs and present new data from the analysis of the complete sequences of D. discoideum chromosomes 1 and 2, which comprise more than one third of the total genome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Dictyostelium / genetics*
  • Genome, Protozoan*
  • Haploidy
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • RNA, Protozoan / genetics*
  • RNA, Transfer / genetics*
  • Retroelements*


  • RNA, Protozoan
  • Retroelements
  • RNA, Transfer