Impact of transposable elements on genome structure and evolution in bread wheat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC)

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, University of Zurich, Zollikerstrasse 107, 8008 Zurich, Switzerland.
  • PGSB Plant Genome and Systems Biology, Helmholtz Center Munich, German Research Center for Environmental Health, Neuherberg, Germany.
  • Department of Crop Genetics, John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park, Colney, Norwich, NR4 7UH, UK.
  • GDEC (Genetics, Diversity and Ecophysiology of Cereals), INRA, Université Clermont Auvergne (UCA), 5 chemin de Beaulieu, 63039 Clermont-Ferrand, France.
  • School of Life Sciences, Technical University Munich, Munich, Germany.
  • GDEC, INRA, UCA (Université Clermont Auvergne), Clermont-Ferrand, France.


BACKGROUND: Transposable elements (TEs) are major components of large plant genomes and main drivers of genome evolution. The most recent assembly of hexaploid bread wheat recovered the highly repetitive TE space in an almost complete chromosomal context and enabled a detailed view into the dynamics of TEs in the A, B, and D subgenomes.

RESULTS: The overall TE content is very similar between the A, B, and D subgenomes, although we find no evidence for bursts of TE amplification after the polyploidization events. Despite the near-complete turnover of TEs since the subgenome lineages diverged from a common ancestor, 76% of TE families are still present in similar proportions in each subgenome. Moreover, spacing between syntenic genes is also conserved, even though syntenic TEs have been replaced by new insertions over time, suggesting that distances between genes, but not sequences, are under evolutionary constraints. The TE composition of the immediate gene vicinity differs from the core intergenic regions. We find the same TE families to be enriched or depleted near genes in all three subgenomes. Evaluations at the subfamily level of timed long terminal repeat-retrotransposon insertions highlight the independent evolution of the diploid A, B, and D lineages before polyploidization and cases of concerted proliferation in the AB tetraploid.

CONCLUSIONS: Even though the intergenic space is changed by the TE turnover, an unexpected preservation is observed between the A, B, and D subgenomes for features like TE family proportions, gene spacing, and TE enrichment near genes.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103
JournalGenome Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2018