Non-traditional Alu evolution and primate genomic diversity

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Alu elements belonging to the previously identified "young" subfamilies are thought to have inserted in the human genome after the divergence of humans from non-human primates and therefore should not be present in non-human primate genomes. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) based screening of over 500 Alu insertion loci resulted in the recovery of a few "young" Alu elements that also resided at orthologous positions in non-human primate genomes. Sequence analysis demonstrated these "young" Alu insertions represented gene conversion events of pre-existing ancient Alu elements or independent parallel insertions of older Alu elements in the same genomic region. The level of gene conversion between Alu elements suggests that it may have a significant influence on the single nucleotide diversity within the genome. All the instances of multiple independent Alu insertions within the same small genomic regions were recovered from the owl monkey genome, indicating a higher Alu amplification rate in owl monkeys relative to many other primates. This study suggests that the majority of Alu insertions in primate genomes are the products of unique evolutionary events. © 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd.

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Journal of Molecular Biology

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