A potentially functional mariner transposable element in the protist Trichomonas vaginalis
Silva JC, Bastida F, Bidwell SL, Johnson PJ, Carlton JM
Mariner transposable elements encoding a D,D34D motif-bearing transposase are characterized by their pervasiveness among, and exclusivity to, animal phyla. To date, several hundred sequences have been obtained from taxa ranging from cnidarians to humans, only two of which are known to be functional. Related transposons have been identified in plants and fungi, but their absence among protists is noticeable. Here, we identify and characterize Tvmar1, the first representative of the mariner family to be found in a species of protist, the human parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. This is the first D,D34D element to be found outside the animal kingdom, and its inclusion in the mariner family is supported by both structural and phylogenetic analyses. Remarkably, Tvmar1 has all the hallmarks of a functional element and has recently expanded to several hundred copies in the genome of T. vaginalis. Our results show that a new potentially active mariner has been found that belongs to a distinct mariner lineage and has successfully invaded a nonanimal, single-celled organism. The considerable genetic distance between Tvmar1 and other mariners may have valuable implications for the design of new, high-efficiency vectors to be used in transfection studies in protists.