Mobilization of retrotransposons in synthetic allotetraploid tobacco
P>Allopolyploidy is a major driving force in plant evolution and can induce rapid structural changes in the hybrid genome. As major components of plant genomes, transposable elements are involved in these changes. In a previous work, we observed turnover of retrotransposon insertions in natural allotretraploid tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum). Here, we studied the early stages of allopolyploid formation by monitoring changes at retrotransposon insertion sites in the Th37 synthetic tobacco. We used sequence-specific amplification polymorphism (SSAP) to study insertion patterns of two populations of the Tnt1 retrotransposon in Th37 S4 generation plants, and characterized the nature of polymorphic insertion sites. We observed significant amplification of young Tnt1 populations. Newly transposed copies were amplified from maternal elements and were highly similar to Tnt1A tobacco copies amplified in response to microbial factors. A high proportion of paternal SSAP bands were not transmitted to the hybrid, corresponding to various rearrangements at paternal insertion sites, including indels or the complete loss of the Tnt1/flanking junction. These data indicate that major changes, such as retrotransposon amplification and molecular restructuring in or around insertion sites, occur rapidly in response to allopolyploidy.