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Open Access Research article

DIRS1-like retrotransposons are widely distributed among Decapoda and are particularly present in hydrothermal vent organisms

Mathieu Piednoël and Eric Bonnivard*

Author Affiliations

UMR 7138 Systématique Adaptation Evolution, Equipe Génétique et Evolution, Université Pierre et Marie Curie Paris 6, Case 5, Bâtiment A, porte 427, 7 quai St Bernard, 75252 Paris Cedex 05, France

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2009, 9:86  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-9-86

Published: 28 April 2009



Transposable elements are major constituents of eukaryote genomes and have a great impact on genome structure and stability. Considering their mutational abilities, TEs can contribute to the genetic diversity and evolution of organisms. Knowledge of their distribution among several genomes is an essential condition to study their dynamics and to better understand their role in species evolution. DIRS1-like retrotransposons are a particular group of retrotransposons according to their mode of transposition that implies a tyrosine recombinase. To date, they have been described in a restricted number of species in comparison with the LTR retrotransposons. In this paper, we determine the distribution of DIRS1-like elements among 25 decapod species, 10 of them living in hydrothermal vents that correspond to particularly unstable environments.


Using PCR approaches, we have identified 15 new DIRS1-like families in 15 diverse decapod species (shrimps, lobsters, crabs and galatheid crabs). Hydrothermal organisms show a particularly great diversity of DIRS1-like elements with 5 families characterized among Alvinocarididae shrimps and 3 in the galatheid crab Munidopsis recta. Phylogenic analyses show that these elements are divergent toward the DIRS1-like families previously described in other crustaceans and arthropods and form a new clade called AlDIRS1. At larger scale, the distribution of DIRS1-like retrotransposons appears more or less patchy depending on the taxa considered. Indeed, a scattered distribution can be observed in the infraorder Brachyura whereas all the species tested in infraorders Caridea and Astacidea harbor some DIRS1-like elements.


Our results lead to nearly double both the number of DIRS1-like elements described to date, and the number of species known to harbor these ones. In this study, we provide the first degenerate primers designed to look specifically for DIRS1-like retrotransposons. They allowed for revealing for the first time a widespread distribution of these elements among a large phylum, here the order Decapoda. They also suggest some peculiar features of these retrotransposons in hydrothermal organisms where a great diversity of elements is already observed. Finally, this paper constitutes the first essential step which allows for considering further studies based on the dynamics of the DIRS1-like retrotransposons among several genomes.