Linear chromosomes shorten in every round of replication. In Drosophila, telomere-specialized long interspersed retrotransposable elements (LINEs) belonging to the jockey clade offset this shortening by forming head-to-tail arrays at Drosophila telomere ends. As such, these telomeric LINEs have been considered adaptive symbionts of the genome, protecting it from premature decay, particularly as Drosophila lacks a conventional telomerase holoenzyme. However, as reviewed here, recent work reveals a high degree of variation and turnover in the telomere-specialized LINE lineages across Drosophila. There appears to be no absolute requirement for LINE activity to maintain telomeres in flies, hence the suggestion that the telomere-specialized LINEs may instead be neutral or in conflict with the host, rather than adaptive.
Keywords: Drosophila; telomerase; telomere; telomere-elongating mechanisms; telomeric transposable elements; transposable element conflict.
© 2019 WILEY Periodicals, Inc.