Transposable elements represent a large proportion of the eukaryotic genomes. Long Terminal Repeat (LTR) retrotransposons are very abundant and constitute the predominant family of transposable elements in plants. Recent studies have identified chromoviruses to be a widely distributed lineage of Gypsy elements. These elements contain chromodomains in their integrases, which suggests a preference for insertion into heterochromatin. In turn, this preference might have contributed to the patterning of heterochromatin observed in host genomes. Despite their potential importance for our understanding of plant genome dynamics and evolution, the regulatory mechanisms governing the behavior of chromoviruses and their activities remain largely uncharacterized. Here, we report a detailed analysis of the spatio-temporal activity of a plant chromovirus in the endogenous host. We examined LORE1a, a member of the endogenous chromovirus LORE1 family from the model legume Lotus japonicus. We found that this chromovirus is stochastically de-repressed in plant populations regenerated from de-differentiated cells and that LORE1a transposes in the male germline. Bisulfite sequencing of the 5′ LTR and its surrounding region suggests that tissue culture induces a loss of epigenetic silencing of LORE1a. Since LTR promoter activity is pollen specific, as shown by the analysis of transgenic plants containing an LTR::GUS fusion, we conclude that male germline-specific LORE1a transposition in pollen grains is controlled transcriptionally by its own cis-elements. New insertion sites of LORE1a copies were frequently found in genic regions and show no strong insertional preferences. These distinctive novel features of LORE1 indicate that this chromovirus has considerable potential for generating genetic and epigenetic diversity in the host plant population. Our results also define conditions for the use of LORE1a as a genetic tool.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Molecular Biology
- Cancer Research