Ongoing loss of the tirant transposable element in natural populations of Drosophila simulans

Gene. 2006 Jun 21;375:54-62. doi: 10.1016/j.gene.2006.02.008. Epub 2006 Apr 19.


Tirant is a long terminal repeat (LTR) retrotransposon with an average of 11 insertion sites on the chromosome arms of Drosophila melanogaster flies collected from natural populations worldwide. In the sibling species Drosophila simulans, tirant is found only in African populations, which harbor a few insertion sites (1 to 5) on the chromosome arms, although some tirant sequences are present in the heterochromatin of most populations. This distribution in D. simulans reflects either the recent genomic invasion of African populations by a new variant of tirant, or a loss of tirant from the entire species apart from some sequence relics still present in Africa. In an attempt to clarify the situation, we focused on the LTR-UTR region of tirant copies from various populations of both D. melanogaster and D. simulans. We found two distinct types of regulatory region: one type was present in both D. melanogaster and D. simulans, and the other was present only in D. simulans. Copies of this latter type of tirant were transcriptionally inactive in gonads. Here we propose that the present day distribution of tirant in D. simulans populations reflects an ancient invasion of D. simulans by tirant copies followed by the loss of active copies from most populations, apart from the African ones, suggesting that this loss is still ongoing in this species.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Southern
  • DNA Transposable Elements*
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Genome
  • Regulatory Sequences, Nucleic Acid
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • DNA Transposable Elements