The detection of horizontal transfer is important to understanding the origin and spread of transposable elements and in assessing their impact on genetic diversity. The occurrence of the phenomenon is not in doubt for two of the three major groups of elements, but is disputed for retroposons, largely on the grounds of data paucity and overreliance on divergence estimates between host species. We present here the most wide-ranging retroposon data set assembled to date for a species group, the mosquitoes. The results provide no evidence for horizontal transfer events and show conclusively that four previously reported events, involving Juan-A, Juan-C, T1, and Q, did not occur. We propose that the origin of all known mosquito retroposons can be attributed to vertical inheritance and that retroposons have therefore been a persistent source of genetic diversity in mosquito genomes since the emergence of the taxon. Furthermore, the data confirm that the unprecedented levels of retroposon diversity previously reported in Anopheles gambiae extends to at least seven other species representing five genera and all three mosquito subfamilies. Most notably, this included the L1 elements, which are not known in other insects. A number of novel well-defined monophyletic groups were also identified, particularly, JM2 and JM3 within the Jockey clade, which included sequences from seven and five mosquito species, respectively. As JM3 does not contain an Anopheles element, this represents a good example of stochastic loss and the best out of at least four found in this study. This exceptionally diverse data set when compared with the wealth of data available for the many unrelated species with which mosquitoes have intimate contact through blood feeding ought to be fertile ground for the discovery of horizontal transfer events. The absence of positive results therefore supports the view that retroposon horizontal transfer does not occur or is far more exceptional than for other types of transposable elements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2190-7
Number of pages8
JournalMolecular biology and evolution
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2005


  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Culicidae
  • DNA Primers
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genetic Variation
  • Inheritance Patterns
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Retroelements
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Species Specificity


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