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Open Access Research article

Organization and evolution of two SIDER retroposon subfamilies and their impact on the Leishmania genome

Martin Smith12, Frédéric Bringaud3* and Barbara Papadopoulou12*

Author Affiliations

1 Research Centre in Infectious Diseases, CHUL Research Centre, RC-709, 2705 Laurier Blvd, Quebec (QC), G1V 4G2 Canada

2 Department of Medical Biology, Faculty of Medicine, Laval University, Quebec, Canada

3 Centre de Résonance Magnétique des Systèmes Biologiques, UMR-5536 CNRS, Université Victor Segalen Bordeaux 2, 146 rue Léo Saignat, 33076 Bordeaux, France

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BMC Genomics 2009, 10:240  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-10-240

Published: 22 May 2009



We have recently identified two large families of extinct transposable elements termed Short Interspersed DEgenerated Retroposons (SIDERs) in the parasitic protozoan Leishmania major. The characterization of SIDER elements was limited to the SIDER2 subfamily, although members of both subfamilies have been shown to play a role in the regulation of gene expression at the post-transcriptional level. Apparent functional domestication of SIDERs prompted further investigation of their characterization, dissemination and evolution throughout the Leishmania genus, with particular attention to the disregarded SIDER1 subfamily.


Using optimized statistical profiles of both SIDER1 and SIDER2 subgroups, we report the first automated and highly sensitive annotation of SIDERs in the genomes of L. infantum, L. braziliensis and L. major. SIDER annotations were combined to in-silico mRNA extremity predictions to generate a detailed distribution map of the repeat family, hence uncovering an enrichment of antisense-oriented SIDER repeats between the polyadenylation and trans-splicing sites of intergenic regions, in contrast to the exclusive sense orientation of SIDER elements within 3'UTRs. Our data indicate that SIDER elements are quite uniformly dispersed throughout all three genomes and that their distribution is generally syntenic. However, only 47.4% of orthologous genes harbor a SIDER element in all three species. There is evidence for species-specific enrichment of SIDERs and for their preferential association, especially for SIDER2s, with different metabolic functions. Investigation of the sequence attributes and evolutionary relationship of SIDERs to other trypanosomatid retroposons reveals that SIDER1 is a truncated version of extinct autonomous ingi-like retroposons (DIREs), which were functional in the ancestral Leishmania genome.


A detailed characterization of the sequence traits for both SIDER subfamilies unveils major differences. The SIDER1 subfamily is more heterogeneous and shows an evolutionary link with vestigial DIRE retroposons as previously observed for the ingi/RIME and L1Tc/NARTc couples identified in the T. brucei and T. cruzi genomes, whereas no identified DIREs are related to SIDER2 sequences. Although SIDER1s and SIDER2s display equivalent genomic distribution globally, the varying degrees of sequence conservation, preferential genomic disposition, and differential association to orthologous genes allude to an intricate web of SIDER assimilation in these parasitic organisms.