Evidence of multiple horizontal transfers of the long terminal repeat retrotransposon RIRE1 within the genus Oryza
Plant J. 2008 Mar;53(6):950-9. Epub 2007 Dec 6.
Horizontal gene transfer, defined as the transmission of genetic material between reproductively isolated species, has been considered for a long time to be a rare phenomenon. Most well-documented cases of horizontal gene transfer have been described in prokaryotes or in animals and they often involve transposable elements. The most abundant class of transposable elements in plant genomes are the long terminal repeat (LTR) retrotransposons. Because of their propensity to increase their copy number while active, LTR retrotransposons can have a significant impact on genomics changes during evolution. In a previous study, we showed that in the wild rice species Oryza australiensis, 60% of the genome is composed of only three families of LTR retrotransposons named RIRE1, Wallabi and Kangourou. In the present study, using both in silico and experimental approaches, we show that one of these three families, RIRE1, has been transferred horizontally between O. australiensis and seven other reproductively isolated Oryza species. This constitutes a new case of horizontal transfer in plants.