Population frequencies of transposable elements in selfing and outcrossing Caenorhabditis nematodes

Elie S. Dolgin, Brian Charlesworth, Asher D. Cutter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Population genetics theory predicts that differences in breeding systems should be all important factor in the dynamics of selfish genetic elements, because of different intensities of selection oil both hosts and elements. We examined population frequencies of transposable elements (TEs) in natural populations of the self-fertilizing nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and its outcrossing relative Caenorhabditis remanei. We identified a Tcl-like class of elements in the C. remanei genome with homology to the terminal inverted repeats of the C. elegans Tcl transposon, which we name mTcrel, We measured levels of insertion polymorphism for all 32 Tcl elements present in the genome sequence of the C. elegans N2 strain, and 16 mTcrel elements from the genome sequence of the C. remanei PB4641 strain. We show that transposons are less polymorphic and segregate at higher Frequencies in C. elegans compared with C. remanei. Estimates of the intensity of selection based on the population frequencies of polymorphic elements suggest that transposons Lire selectively neutral in C. elegans, but Subject to purifying selection in C. remanei. These results are consistent with a reduced efficacy of natural selection against TEs in selfing populations, but may in part be explained by non-equilibrium TE dynamics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-329
Number of pages13
JournalGenetics Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2008


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