Dfam 3.4 Release

July 24, 2021

The Dfam Consortium is proud to announce the release of Dfam 3.4. This update includes over 8,200 curated transposable element (TE) families found in 240 mammalian genomes. The models therein have been carefully developed by David Ray’s lab at Texas Tech University (TTU) and further refined by Arian Smit. This is part of an ongoing effort to generate a comprehensive mammalian TE library using multi-species alignments and ancestral sequence reconstructions generated by the Zoonomia project (https://zoonomiaproject.org).

In addition to releasing the curated TE families, full genome annotations are provided for 21 Old World monkeys (Figure 1; Figure 2).

Figure 1: A portion of the available genomes aligned as part of the Zoonomia project, focused on the Primate Order.

Discovery of young, species-specific TEs

As a large portion of a mammalian genome, TEs serve as a source for genomic variation and innovation, including (but certainly not limited to) genomic rearrangement via movement and non-homologous recombination and providing novel transcription factor binding sites. David Ray’s lab has taken the first large-scale effort into examining the TE content of the extant genomes as part of the Zoonomia project in order to determine the TE type and location and subsequently the impact they might have on the evolution of each lineage of mammals. 

Methods

A total of 248 final genome assemblies of placental mammals were initially presented for analysis, most coming from the Zoonomia dataset. Low quality assemblies and previously analyzed genomes were excluded from analyses. To avoid wasted effort on re-curation of previously described TEs, manual curation efforts were focused towards identifying newer putative TEs that underwent relatively recent accumulation, with the main assumption being that many older TEs will be widely shared among large groups of placental mammals and that previous annotation efforts have thoroughly described these older elements in detail.

To classify younger TEs, the filtered dataset was narrowed to elements that have undergone transposition in the recent past, i.e. TEs that have insertion sequences with Kimura 2 parameter (K2P) distances less than 4.4% (approximately ~20my or less since insertion, based on a general mammalian neutral mutation rate of 2.2×10-9). This approach yielded mostly lineage specific TEs, many of which were yet to be previously described.

For each iteration of manual TE curation, new consensus sequences were generated from the 10-50 top BLAST hits, and aligning these sequences via MUSCLE and estimating a consensus sequence with EMBOSS.

To reduce library redundancy, the potential TE consensus sequences were combined with those of known TEs from previous work as well as all known vertebrate TEs from Repbase. The program CD-HIT-EST was used to identify duplicate TEs among our combined TE library according to the 80-80-80 rule of Wicker et al.

To confirm the TE type, each sequence in the library was subjected to a custom pipeline which used: blastx to confirm the presence of known ORFs in autonomous elements, RepBase to identify known elements, and TEclass to predict the TE type. In addition, structural criteria was also utilized for categorizing TEs: DNA transposons, elements with visible terminal inverted repeats; rolling circle transposons were required to have identifiable ACTAG at one end; putative SINEs were inspected for a repetitive tail as well as A and B boxes; LTR retrotransposons were required to have recognizable hallmarks, such as: TG, TGT, or TGTT at their 5’ and the inverse at the 3’ ends.   

Zoonomia Project

Figure 2: Summary of the Zoonomia project

The Zoonomia project is an effort to understand the mammalian tree of life at a deeper level. This massive undertaking is the collaboration of 27 laboratories. Although far from a complete list, some current projects derived from the Zoonomia datasets include: studying mammalian speech development, regulatory element analyses, chromosome evolution and the evolution of microRNA genes.

Future Work

Future efforts will continue to analyze and catalog lineage-specific TEs in deeper branches of the 240-way genome alignment via the reconstructed genomes at each node of the phylogenetic tree as part of the alignment and expand the full genome annotations available on Dfam.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s