In the medaka fish (Oryzias latipes) many mutants for body color have been isolated. A typical example is the recessive oculocutaneous albino mutant i, which has amelanotic skin and red-colored eyes with no tyrosinase activity. To cast light on the molecular basis of the albino mechanism, we performed Southern blot analysis of genomic DNA from the mutant with an authentic tyrosinase gene probe; the results demonstrate that an extra 1.9 kb fragment is present inside the first exon. The insertion is responsible for the oculocutaneous albinism. About 80 copies of this fragment are present in the genomes of albino-i and wild-type fish; these repeated sequences are here designated Tol1 elements and the particular element found in the tyrosinase gene of albino-i is denoted Tol1-tyr. The nucleotide sequence of Tol1-tyr shows that the fragment (i) carries terminal inverted repeats of 14 bp, and (ii) is flanked by duplicated 8 by segments of the host chromosome. These are properties of DNA-mediated transposable elements. Comparison of the nucleotide sequence of Tol1-tyr with other sequences in DNA databases, with special attention to sequences of transposable elements known to date, did not reveal any similarity. Thus, Tol1 constitutes a hitherto unknown family of DNA transposable elements.
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