Tuned for Transposition: Molecular Determinants Underlying the Hyperactivity of a Stowaway MITE

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Science  11 Sep 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5946, pp. 1391-1394
DOI: 10.1126/science.1175688

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Miniature inverted repeat transposable elements (MITEs) are widespread in eukaryotic genomes, where they can attain high copy numbers despite a lack of coding capacity. However, little is known about how they originate and amplify. We performed a genome-wide screen of functional interactions between Stowaway MITEs and potential transposases in the rice genome and identified a transpositionally active MITE that possesses key properties that enhance transposition. Although not directly related to its autonomous element, the MITE has less affinity for the transposase than does the autonomous element but lacks a motif repressing transposition in the autonomous element. The MITE contains internal sequences that enhance transposition. These findings suggest that MITEs achieve high transposition activity by scavenging transposases encoded by distantly related and self-restrained autonomous elements.

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