Open Access Open Badges Research article

Horizontal transfer of OC1 transposons in the Tasmanian devil

Clement Gilbert1, Paul Waters23, Cedric Feschotte4 and Sarah Schaack5*

Author Affiliations

1 Université de Poitiers, UMR CNRS 7267, Ecologie et Biologie des Interactions, Equipe Ecologie Evolution Symbiose, Poitiers, France

2 Evolution Ecology and Genetics, Research School of Biology, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

3 School of Biotechnology & Biomolecular Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

4 Department of Human Genetics, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, UT, USA

5 Department of Biology, Reed College, Portland, OR, USA

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BMC Genomics 2013, 14:134  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-134

Published: 27 February 2013



There is growing recognition that horizontal DNA transfer, a process known to be common in prokaryotes, is also a significant source of genomic variation in eukaryotes. Horizontal transfer of transposable elements (HTT) may be especially prevalent in eukaryotes given the inherent mobility, widespread occurrence, and prolific abundance of these elements in many eukaryotic genomes.


Here, we provide evidence for a new case of HTT of the transposon family OposCharlie1 (OC1) in the Tasmanian devil, Sarcophilus harrisii. Bioinformatic analyses of OC1 sequences in the Tasmanian devil genome suggest that this transposon infiltrated the common ancestor of the Dasyuridae family ~17 million years ago. This estimate is corroborated by a PCR-based screen for the presence/absence of this family in Tasmanian devils and closely-related species.


This case of HTT is the first to be reported in dasyurids. It brings the number of animal lineages independently invaded by OC1 to 12, and adds a fourth continent to the pandemic-like pattern of invasion of this transposon. In the context of these data, we discuss the evolutionary history of this transposon family and its potential impact on the diversification of marsupials.

Horizontal transfer; Transposable element; Tasmanian devil; Sarcophilus harrisii