The Alu repetitive family of short interspersed elements (SINEs) in primates can be subdivided into distinct subfamilies by specific diagnostic nucleotide changes. The older subfamilies are generally very abundant, while the younger subfamilies have fewer copies. Some of the youngest Alu elements are absent in the orthologous loci of nonhuman primates, indicative of recent retroposition events, the primary mode of SINE evolution. PCR analysis of one young Alu subfamily (Sb2) member found in the low-density lipoprotein receptor gene apparently revealed the presence of this element in the green monkey, orangutan, gorilla, and chimpanzee genomes, as well as the human genome. However, sequence analysis of these genomes revealed a highly mutated, older, primate-specific Alu element was present at this position in the nonhuman primates. Comparison of the flanking DNA sequences upstream of this Alu insertion corresponded to evolution expected for standard primate phylogeny, but comparison of the Alu repeat sequences revealed that the human element departed from this phylogeny. The change in the human sequence apparently occurred by a gene conversion event only within the Alu element itself, converting it from one of the oldest to one of the youngest Alu subfamilies. Although gene conversions of Alu elements are clearly very rare, this finding shows that such events can occur and contribute to specific cases of SINE subfamily evolution.
Publication Source (Journal or Book title)
Molecular and Cellular Biology
Kass, D., Batzer, M., & Deininger, P. (1995). Gene conversion as a secondary mechanism of short interspersed element (SINE) evolution. Molecular and Cellular Biology, 15 (1), 19-25. https://doi.org/10.1128/MCB.15.1.19