A family of short retroposons (Squam1) from squamate reptiles (Reptilia: Squamata): Structure, evolution, and correlation with phylogeny

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Sequences of the SINE family specific to squamate reptiles have been isolated from the genomes of lacertid lizards and sequenced. These retroposons, which we called Squam1, are 360–390 bp long and contain a region similar to the tRNA gene sequence at the 5′ end. This family has also been detected in representatives of other reptile families (varanids, iguanids (Anolis), gekkonids, and snakes), being absent from the genomes of crocodiles as well as amphibians, birds, and mammals. The primary structures of Squam1 copies have been comprehensively analyzed and compared with GenBank sequences. The genomes of most taxa contain two to three SINE subfamilies with specific diagnostic features in their primary structures. Individual similarity between the copies within each taxon is about 85%, with intrageneric similarity being only slightly higher. A comparison of consensus sequences between different lizard families has shown that Squam1 may be a convenient phylogenetic marker for this group of reptiles, having a number of both apomorphic and more or less pronounced synapomorphic features. By this criterion, snakes slightly differ from lizards but obviously belong to the same clade. However, they show no special affinity to varanids as the putative closest relatives of snakes, compared to other lizards.

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