- Key message: Here, we show that Au SINE elements have strong associations with protein-coding genes in wheat. Most importantly Au SINE insertion within introns causes allelic variation and might induce intron retention. The impact of transposable elements (TEs) on genome structure and function is intensively studied in eukaryotes, especially in plants where TEs can reach up to 90% of the genome in some cases, such as in wheat. Here, we have performed a genome-wide in-silico analysis using the updated publicly available genome draft of bread wheat (T. aestivum), in addition to the updated genome drafts of the diploid donor species, T. urartu and Ae. tauschii, to retrieve and analyze a non-LTR retrotransposon family, termed Au SINE, which was found to be widespread in plant species. Then, we have performed site-specific PCR and realtime RT-PCR analyses to assess the possible impact of Au SINE on gene structure and function. To this end, we retrieved 133, 180 and 1886 intact Au SINE insertions from T. urartu, Ae. tauschii and T. aestivum genome drafts, respectively. The 1886 Au SINE insertions were distributed in the seven homoeologous chromosomes of T. aestivum, while ~ 67% of the insertions were associated with genes. Detailed analysis of 40 genes harboring Au SINE revealed allelic variation of those genes in the Triticum-Aegilops genus. In addition, expression analysis revealed that both regular transcripts and alternative Au SINE-containing transcripts were simultaneously amplified in the same tissue, indicating retention of Au SINE-containing introns. Analysis of the wheat transcriptome revealed that hundreds of protein-coding genes harbor Au SINE in at least one of their mature splice variants. Au SINE might play a prominent role in speciation by creating transcriptome variation.