A family of transposon-like sequences in the C. elegans genome is described. This family, termed the Tc6 family, consists mostly of conserved, 1.6 kb elements. Four Tc6 elements or partial elements have been cloned and the DNA sequences of three were determined. One appears to be a complete element of 1603 nucleotides, consisting of a palindrome of 765 nucleotides, with a central, non-palindromic region of 73 nucleotides. Another has an identical structure except for an intemal deletion. A third is a partial element terminating at a probable internal restriction site used for cloning. A fourth clone contained portions of the Tc6 sequence juxtaposed to non-Tc6 sequences. All C. elegans strains examined contain 20-30 Tc6 elements. The ends of Tc6 elements are conserved and have sequence similarity to the ends of C. elegans transposons Tc1 and Tc3. The ends of Tc6 elements also have sequence similarity to the heptamer portion of the immunogiobuiin and T-cell receptor recombination signal sequence, raising the possibility of wide phylogenetic conservation of the recombination mechanism. Tc6 elements also share sequence motifs with plant-pathogenic viroid RNA's, possibly indicative of a Tc6 RNA replicative phase.
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