The impact of transposable elements (TEs) on genome structure, plasticity, and evolution is still not well understood. The recent availability of complete genome sequences makes it possible to get new insights on the evolutionary dynamics of TEs from the phylogenetic analysis of their multiple copies in a wide range of species. However, this source of information is not always fully exploited. Here, we show how the history of transposition activity may be qualitatively and quantitatively reconstructed by considering the distribution of transposition events in the phylogenetic tree, along with the tree topology. Using statistical models developed to infer speciation and extinction rates in species phylogenies, we demonstrate that it is possible to estimate the past transposition rate of a TE family, as well as how this rate varies with time. This methodological framework may not only facilitate the interpretation of genomic data, but also serve as a basis to develop new theoretical and statistical models.
Keywords: transposition activity; phylogeny; branching process; repeated sequences
Journal Article. 5509 words. Illustrated.
Subjects: Bioinformatics and Computational Biology ; Evolutionary Biology ; Genetics and Genomics