Genomic parasites or symbionts? Modeling the effects of environmental pressure on transposition activity in asexual populations
Michał Startek , Arnaud Le Rouzic , Pierre Capy , Dariusz Grzebelus , Anna Gambin
AbstractTransposable elements are DNA segments capable of persisting in host genomes by self-replication in spite of deleterious mutagenic effects. The theoretical dynamics of these elements within genomes has been studied extensively, and population genetic models predict that they can invade and maintain as a result of both intra-genomic and inter-individual selection in sexual species. In asexuals, the success of selfish DNA is more difficult to explain. However, most theoretical work assumes constant environment. Here, we analyze the impact of environmental change on the dynamics of transposition activity when horizontal DNA exchange is absent, based on a stochastic computational model of transposable element proliferation. We argue that repeated changes in the phenotypic optimum in a multidimensional fitness landscape may induce explosive bursts of transposition activity associated with faster adaptation. However, long-term maintenance of transposition activity is unlikely. This could contribute to the significant variation in the transposable element copy number among closely related species.
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