Mobile genetic elements are major agents of genome diversification and evolution. Limited studies addressed their characteristics, including abundance, and role in extreme habitats. One of the rare natural habitats exposed to multiple-extreme conditions, including high temperature, salinity and concentration of heavy metals, are the Red Sea brine pools. We assessed the abundance and distribution of different mobile genetic elements in four Red Sea brine pools including the world's largest known multiple-extreme deep-sea environment, the Red Sea Atlantis II Deep. We report a gradient in the abundance of mobile genetic elements, dramatically increasing in the harshest environment of the pool. Additionally, we identified a strong association between the abundance of insertion sequences and extreme conditions, being highest in the harshest and deepest layer of the Red Sea Atlantis II Deep. Our comparative analyses of mobile genetic elements in secluded, extreme and relatively non-extreme environments, suggest that insertion sequences predominantly contribute to polyextremophiles genome plasticity.
Keywords: Deep-sea hydrothermal vents; Extremophiles; Insertion sequences; Mobile genetic elements; Red Sea brine pools.