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DNA-binding specificity of rice mariner -like transposases and interactions with Stowaway MITEs


Mariner-like elements (MLEs) are DNA transposons found throughout the plant and animal kingdoms. A previous computational survey of the rice (Oryza sativa) genome sequence revealed 34 full length MLEs (Osmars) belonging to 25 distinct families. This survey, which also identified sequence similarities between the Osmar elements and the Stowaway superfamily of MITEs, led to the formulation of a hypothesis whereby Stowaways are mobilized by OSMAR transposases. Here we investigate the DNA-binding activities and specificities of two OSMAR transposases, OSMAR5 and OSMAR10. Like other mariner-like transposases, the OSMARs bind specifically to the terminal inverted repeat (TIR) sequences of their encoding transposons. OSMAR5 binds DNA through a bipartite N-terminal domain containing two functionally separable helix-turn-helix motifs, resembling the paired domain of Tc1-like transposases and PAX transcription factors in metazoans. Furthermore, binding of the OSMARs is not limited to their own TIRs; OSMAR5 transposase can also interact in vitro with TIRs from closely related Osmar elements and with consensus TIRs of several Stowaway families mined from the rice genome sequence. These results provide the first biochemical evidence for a functional relationship between Osmar elements and Stowaway MITEs and lead us to suggest that there is extensive cross-talk among related but distinct transposon families co-existing in a single eukaryote genome.

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