Chemistry of Life

Molecular genetics, biochemistry

transposable elements

Transposable elements are relatively long DNA sequences that can act as mobile genetic elements in prokaryotic and eukaryotic genomes. Transposable elements represent a large part of the genomes in many species, and transpose by a mechanism that involves DNA synthesis followed by random integration at a new target location in the genome.

Most of transposable elements contain inverted repeats at their ends. All transposable elements encode for transposase, a special enzyme activity that assists in the insertion of transposons at a new site. Prokaryotic transposable elements differ from their eukaryotic counterparts in the mechanism of transposition.

Only eukaryotic genomes contain retrotransposons, the special type of transposable elements that employ reverse transcriptase to transpose an RNA intermediate. Alu elements are about 300 nucleotides in length and include a distinctive sequence that ends in a poly-A tail. The human gene's protein-generating capacity is considerably increased by the presence of Alu elements. Alu sequences have the potential to continue to greatly enrich the stock of meaningful genetic information available for producing new human proteins.

Transposition may result in splicing of DNA fragments into or out of the genome. During replicative transposition, the transposon is first replicated giving a new copy that is transferred to a new site, while the old copy is retained at the original site (type I transposition). Nonreplicative transposition, however, involves a transposon that is excised from a donor site and is relocated to a new site (type II transposition). Transposons normally influence the expression of the genes in proximity of their insertion sites.

Transposons and retroposons seem to play a mechanism for biological evolution by promoting rearrangement and restructuring of genomes. Retrotransposon-induced mutations are relatively stable, because the sequence at the insertion site is retained as they transpose via the replication mechanism. Transposition may directly cause both deletion and inversion mutagenesis. Furthermore, transposable elements mediate the movement of host DNA sequences to new locations, enriching the genome with identical sequences positioned at different locations, and promoting homologous recombination. Such recombination may eventually result in deletions, inversions, and translocations.

retrotransposons > Alu elementsAlu elements : biological evolution »» Biological Evolution : cDNA : deletions »» Deletion : eukaryotic vs prokaryotic : integrase : inversions »» Inversion : inverted repeats : LINEs : LTRs : long terminal repeats : mutations »» Mutation : non-replicative transposition : recombination »» Recombination : replicative transposition : retroposons : retrotransposons : retrovirus ۰۰ retroviruses : reverse transcriptase : RT : SINEs : stable mutations : translocations »» Translocation : transposable elements ~ transposable elements : transposition types I & II : transposase : transposons : viral retroposons < retrotransposons


External : Transposons part 1, transposons part 2 : Barbara McClintock and mobile genetic elements :

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. . . transcription begun 10/06/06