Horizontal transmission, vertical inactivation, and stochastic loss of mariner-like transposable elements

Allan R. Lohe, Etsuko N. Moriyama, Dan Anders Lidholm, Daniel L. Hartl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

216 Scopus citations


Horizontal transmission has been well documented as a major mechanism for the dissemination of mariner-like elements (MLEs) among species. Less well understood are mechanisms that limit vertical transmission of MLEs resulting in the 'spotty' or discontinuous distribution observed in closely related species. In this article we present evidence that the genome of the common ancestor of the melanogaster species subgroup of Drosophila contained an MLE related to the mellifera (honey bee) subfamily. Horizontal transmission, approximately 3-10 MYA, is strongly suggested by the observation that the sequence of the MLE in Drosophila erecta is 97% identical in nucleotide sequence with that of an MLE in the cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis. The D. erecta MLE has a spotty distribution among species in the melanogaster subgroup. The element has a high copy number in D. erecta and D. orena, a moderate copy number in D. teissieri and D. yakuba, and was apparently lost ('stochastic loss') in the lineage leading to D. melanogaster, D. simulans, D. mauritiana, and D. sechellia. In D. erecta, most copies are concentrated in the heterochromatin. Two copies from D. erecta, denoted De12 and De19, were cloned and sequenced, and they appear to be nonfunctional ('vertical inactivation'). It therefore appears that the predominant mode of MLE evolution is vertical inactivation and stochastic loss balanced against occasional reinvasion of lineages by horizontal transmission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)62-72
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular biology and evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1995
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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