Potential retroviruses in plants: Tat1 is related to a group of Arabidopsis thaliana Ty3/gypsy retrotransposons that encode envelope-like proteins.Genetics 1998; 149(2):703-15G
Tat1 was originally identified as an insertion near the Arabidopsis thaliana SAM1 gene. We provide evidence that Tat1 is a retrotransposon and that previously described insertions are solo long terminal repeats (LTRs) left behind after the deletion of coding regions of full-length elements. Three Tat1 insertions were characterized that have retrotransposon features, including a primer binding site complementary to an A. thaliana asparagine tRNA and an open reading frame (ORF) with approximately 44% amino acid sequence similarity to the gag protein of the Zea mays retrotransposon Zeon-1. Tat1 elements have large, polymorphic 3' noncoding regions that may contain transduced DNA sequences; a 477-base insertion in the 3' noncoding region of the Tat1-3 element contains part of a related retrotransposon and sequences similar to the nontranslated leader sequence of AT-P5C1, a gene for pyrroline-5-carboxylate reductase. Analysis of DNA sequences generated by the A. thaliana genome project identified 10 families of Ty3/gypsy retrotransposons, which share up to 51 and 62% amino-acid similarity to the ORFs of Tat1 and the A. thaliana Athila element, respectively. Phylogenetic analyses resolved the plant Ty3/gypsy elements into two lineages, one of which includes homologs of Tat1 and Athila. Four families of A. thaliana elements within the Tat/Athila lineage encode a conserved ORF after integrase at a position occupied by the envelope gene in retroviruses and in some insect Ty3/gypsy retrotransposons. Like retroviral envelope genes, this ORF encodes a transmembrane domain and, in some insertions, a putative secretory signal sequence. This suggests that Tat/Athila retrotransposons may produce enveloped virions and may be infectious.