SVA elements: a hominid-specific retroposon family.
SVA is a composite repetitive element named after its main components, SINE, VNTR and Alu. We have identified 2762 SVA elements from the human genome draft sequence. Genomic distribution analysis indicates that the SVA elements are enriched in G+C-rich regions but have no preferences for inter- or intragenic regions. A phylogenetic analysis of the elements resulted in the recovery of six subfamilies that were named SVA_A to SVA_F. The composition, age and genomic distribution of the subfamilies have been examined. Subfamily age estimates based upon nucleotide divergence indicate that the expansion of four SVA subfamilies (SVA_A, SVA_B, SVA_C and SVA_D) began before the divergence of human, chimpanzee and gorilla, while subfamilies SVA_E and SVA_F are restricted to the human lineage. A survey of human genomic diversity associated with SVA_E and SVA_F subfamily members showed insertion polymorphism frequencies of 37.5% and 27.6%, respectively. In addition, we examined the amplification dynamics of SVA elements throughout the primate order and traced their origin back to the beginnings of hominid primate evolution, approximately 18 to 25 million years ago. This makes SVA elements the youngest family of retroposons in the primate order.