What happens when Penelope comes?: an unusual retroelement invades a host species genome exploring different strategies.
Transposable elements (TEs) are ubiquitous residents in eukaryotic genomes. They can cause dramatic changes in gene expression and lead to gross rearrangements of chromosome structure, providing the basis for rapid evolution. The virilis species group of Drosophila contains certain species that can be crossed under experimental conditions and their phylogeny is thoroughly investigated. We have shown that Drosophila virilis, the most primitive karyotypically and probably the ancestral species of the group, is in the process of colonization by a very unusual retroelement Penelope which apparently repeatedly invaded the species of the group in the past. However, the molecular mechanisms and evolutionary consequences of such invasions are poorly understood. In this commentary, we discuss the implications of our recent investigation into the response of the RNA silencing system to Penelope invasion of a new host genome which can be achieved in different ways.