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Open Access Research article

Multiple invasions of Gypsy and Micropia retroelements in genus Zaprionus and melanogaster subgroup of the genus Drosophila

Nathalia de Setta1, Marie-Anne Van Sluys2, Pierre Capy3 and Claudia MA Carareto1*

Author Affiliations

1 UNESP - São Paulo State University, Department of Biology, São José do Rio Preto, SP, Brazil

2 USP - São Paulo University, Department of Botany, São Paulo, SP, Brazil

3 Laboratoire Evolution, Génomes et Spéciation UPR9034, CNRS, 91198 Gif-sur-Yvette, and Université Paris-Sud 11, 91405 Orsay, France

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2009, 9:279  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-9-279

Published: 2 December 2009



The Zaprionus genus shares evolutionary features with the melanogaster subgroup, such as space and time of origin. Although little information about the transposable element content in the Zaprionus genus had been accumulated, some of their elements appear to be more closely related with those of the melanogaster subgroup, indicating that these two groups of species were involved in horizontal transfer events during their evolution. Among these elements, the Gypsy and the Micropia retroelements were chosen for screening in seven species of the two Zaprionus subgenera, Anaprionus and Zaprionus.


Screening allowed the identification of diverse Gypsy and Micropia retroelements only in species of the Zaprionus subgenus, showing that they are transcriptionally active in the sampled species. The sequences of each retroelement were closely related to those of the melanogaster species subgroup, and the most parsimonious hypothesis would be that 15 horizontal transfer events shaped their evolution. The Gypsy retroelement of the melanogaster subgroup probably invaded the Zaprionus genomes about 11 MYA. In contrast, the Micropia retroelement may have been introduced into the Zaprionus subgenus and the melanogaster subgroup from an unknown donor more recently (~3 MYA).


Gypsy and Micropia of Zaprionus and melanogaster species share similar evolutionary patterns. The sharing of evolutionary, ecological and ethological features probably allowed these species to pass through a permissive period of transposable element invasion, explaining the proposed waves of horizontal transfers.