Transposons as Natural and Experimental Mutagens


Transposons are sequences of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) that have the ability to move from one genome location to another causing deleterious mutations and chromosome rearrangements. These elements, which are under self‐regulation and regulation by their hosts, are used as vectors to move foreign DNA into transgenic plants and animals and as experimental mutagens to tag genes. Transposons are also occasionally used in adaptive ways by the host in spite of their short‐term deleterious effects on fitness.

Keywords: transposons; transposable DNA elements; mutation; LINEs; SINEs

Figure 1.

Chromosome rearrangements, including deletions, duplications and inversions, caused by recombination between transposable DNA elements, which are shown in boxes. These types of exchange have been documented in Drosophila, mice and humans.


Further Reading

Capy PC, Bazin D, Higuet D and Langin T (1998) Dynamics and Evolution of Transposable Elements. New York: Chapman and Hall.

Deragon JM and Capy P (2000) Impact of transposable elements on the human genome. Annals of Medicine 32: 264–273.

Hurst GDD and Werren JH (2001) The role of selfish genetic elements in eukaryotic evolution. Nature Reviews Genetics 2: 597–606.

Labrador M and Corces VG (1997) Transposable element–host interactions: regulation of insertion and excision. Annual Review of Genetics 31: 381–404.

Lander ES, Linton LM, Birren B et al. (2001) Initial sequencing and analysis of the human genome. Nature 409: 860–921.

McDonald JF (1999) Transposable elements and genome evolution. Genetica 107: 1–295. [Special Issue]

Maraia RJ (1995) The Impact of Short Interspersed Elements (SINEs) on the Host Genome. Heidelberg: Springer.

Nekrutenko A and Li W‐H (2001) Transposable elements are found in a large number of human protein‐coding genes. Trends in Genetics 17: 619–621.

Ostertag EM and Kazazian HH Jr (2001) Biology of mammalian L1 retrotransposons. Annual Review of Genetics 35: 501–538.

Woodruff RC, Thompson JN Jr, Barker JSF and Huai H (1999) Transposable DNA elements and life history traits. II. Transposition of P DNA elements in somatic cells reduces fitness, mating activity, and locomotion of Drosophila melanogaster. Genetica 107: 261–269.

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Woodruff, RC, and Thompson, James N(Mar 2003) Transposons as Natural and Experimental Mutagens. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0000841]