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ID elements are short interspersed repetitive DNA elements (SINEs) which have amplified in rodent genomes via retroposition, a process involving an RNA intermediate. BC1, an abundant ID-related transcript, is transcribed from a conserved, single-copy gene in rodents. The gene encoding BC1 RNA represents one of the earliest and possibly the first ID-containing sequence. Comparison of consensus sequences of each rodent ID with its corresponding BC1 RNA gene showed that the variations of BC1 RNA within rodents corresponded to specific changes within the ID consensus sequence for each rodent species. This supports the hypothesis that the BC1 gene is a master gene responsible for the amplification and evolution of ID elements. The rat ID family consists of at least four subfamilies, with the oldest subfamily having been derived from the BC1 RNA. The other three subfamilies appear to have been derived from a new master gene(s), which has been responsible for the large increase in ID element copy number within the rat genome. We have found that the guinea pig genome contains two copies of the BC1 gene, apparently the result of a DNA-mediated duplication event. Both of these guinea pig BC1 genes have a conserved TATA-like element in the 5' flanking region and have contributed to guinea pig ID amplifications.

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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

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