The Enterprise: A massive transposon carrying Spokt meiotic drive genes

A. A. Vogan, S. L. Ament-Velásquez, E. Bastiaans, O. Wallerman, S. J. Saupe, A. Suh and H. Johannesson,  bioRxiv,  2020.03.25.007153. 2020.

The genomes of eukaryotes are full of parasitic sequences known as transposable elements (TEs). Most TEs studied to date are relatively small (50 – 12000 bp), but can contribute to very large proportions of genomes. Here we report the discovery of a giant tyrosine-recombinase-mobilized DNA transposon, Enterprise, from the model fungus Podospora anserina. Previously, we described a large genomic feature called the Spok block which is notable due to the presence of meiotic drive genes of the Spok gene family. The Spok block ranges from 110 kb to 247 kb and can be present in at least four different genomic locations within P. anserina, despite what is an otherwise highly conserved genome structure. We have determined that the reason for its varying positions is that the Spok block is not only capable of meiotic drive, but is also capable of transposition. More precisely, the Spok block represents a unique case where the Enterprise has captured the Spoks, thereby parasitizing a resident genomic parasite to become a genomic hyperparasite. Furthermore, we demonstrate that Enterprise (without the Spoks) is found in other fungal lineages, where it can be as large as 70 kb. Lastly, we provide experimental evidence that the Spok block is deleterious, with detrimental effects on spore production in strains which carry it. In contrast to the selfish role of the Enterprise in P. anserina, we hypothesize that the mobility of the Enterprise may also play an adaptive role in fungi when Enterprise undergoes horizontal transfer while carrying metabolic genes. This union of meiotic drivers and a transposon has created a selfish element of impressive size in Podospora, challenging our perception of how TEs influence genome evolution and broadening the horizons in terms of what the upper limit of transposition may be.Competing Interest StatementThe authors have declared no competing interest.

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