Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Hoffmann, Federico G.

Committee Member

Ray, David A.

Committee Member

Peterson, Daniel.

Committee Member

Perkins, Andy D.

Committee Member

Stevens, Richard D.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Molecular Biology

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology and Plant Pathology


Transposable elements (TEs), also known as jumping genes, are DNA sequences capable of mobilizing and replicating within the genome. In mammals, it is not uncommon for 50% of the genome to be derived from TEs, yet they remain an underutilized tool for tracking evolutionary change. With the increasing number of publicly funded genome projects and affordable access to next-generation sequencing platforms, it is important to demonstrate the role TEs may play in helping us understand evolutionary patterns. The research presented herein utilizes TEs to investigate such patterns at the genomic, specific, and generic levels in three distinct ways. First at the genomic level, an analysis of the historical TE activity within the thirteen-lined ground squirrel (Spermophilus tridecemlineatus) shows that non-LTR retrotransposon activity has been declining for the past ~26 million years and appears to have ceased ~5 million years ago. Since most mammals, and all other rodents studied to date, have active TEs the extinction event in S. tridecemlineatus makes it a valuable model for understanding the factors driving TE activity and extinction. Second, we examined TEs as factors impacting genomic and species diversity. We found that DNA transposon insertions in Eptesicus fuscus, appear to have been exapted as miRNAs. When placed within a phylogenetic context a burst of transposon-driven, miRNA origination and the vespertilionid species radiation occurred simultaneously ~30 million years ago. This observation implies that lineage specific TEs could generate lineage specific regulatory pathways, and consequently lineage specific phenotypic differences. Finally, we utilized TEs to investigate their phylogenetic potential at the level of genus. In particular a method was developed that identified, over 670 thousand Ves SINE insertions in seven species of Myotis for use in future phylogenetic studies. Our method was able to accurately identify insertions in taxa for which no reference genome was available and was confirmed using traditional PCR and Sanger sequencing methods. By identifying polymorphic Ves insertions, it may be possible to resolve the phylogeny of one of the largest species radiations in mammals.