Tetris is a foldback transposon that provided the building blocks for an emerging satellite DNA of Drosophila virilis

Genome Biol Evol. 2014 May 24;6(6):1302-13. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evu108.


Transposable elements (TEs) and satellite DNAs (satDNAs) are abundant components of most eukaryotic genomes studied so far and their impact on evolution has been the focus of several studies. A number of studies linked TEs with satDNAs, but the nature of their evolutionary relationships remains unclear. During in silico analyses of the Drosophila virilis assembled genome, we found a novel DNA transposon we named Tetris based on its modular structure and diversity of rearranged forms. We aimed to characterize Tetris and investigate its role in generating satDNAs. Data mining and sequence analysis showed that Tetris is apparently nonautonomous, with a structure similar to foldback elements, and present in D. virilis and D. americana. Herein, we show that Tetris shares the final portions of its terminal inverted repeats (TIRs) with DAIBAM, a previously described miniature inverted transposable element implicated in the generation of chromosome inversions. Both elements are likely to be mobilized by the same autonomous TE. Tetris TIRs contain approximately 220-bp internal tandem repeats that we have named TIR-220. We also found TIR-220 repeats making up longer (kb-size) satDNA-like arrays. Using bioinformatic, phylogenetic and cytogenomic tools, we demonstrated that Tetris has contributed to shaping the genomes of D. virilis and D. americana, providing internal tandem repeats that served as building blocks for the amplification of satDNA arrays. The β-heterochromatic genomic environment seemed to have favored such amplification. Our results imply for the first time a role for foldback elements in generating satDNAs.

Keywords: fiber-FISH; polytene chromosomes; repetitive DNA; satellite DNA; transposable elements; β-heterochromatin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromosomes, Insect
  • DNA Transposable Elements*
  • DNA, Satellite / genetics*
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Genome, Insect
  • Phylogeny


  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • DNA, Satellite