Woot, an Active Gypsy-Class Retrotransposon in the Flour Beetle, Tribolium Castaneum, Is Associated with a Recent Mutation


A recently isolated, lethal mutation of the homeotic Abdominal gene of the red flour beetle Tribolium castaneum is associated with an insertion of a novel retrotransposon into an intron. Sequence analysis indicates that this retrotransposon, named Woot, is a member of the gypsy family of mobile elements. Most strains of T. castaneum appear to harbor ~25-35 copies of Woot per genome. Woot is composed of long terminal repeats of unprecedented length (3.6 kb each), flanking an internal coding region 5.0 kb in length. For most copies of Woot, the internal region includes two open reading frames (ORFs) that correspond to the gag and pol genes of previously described retrotransposons and retroviruses. The copy of Woot inserted into Abdominal bears an apparent single frameshift mutation that separates the normal second ORF into two. Woot does not appear to generate infectious virions by the criterion that no envelop gene is discernible. The association of Woot with a recent mutation suggests that this retroelement is currently transpositionally active in at least some strains.

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