Transposition of maize Ac/Ds transposable elements in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Nat Genet. 2000 Oct;26(2):187-90. doi: 10.1038/82827.


Excision by transposons is associated with chromosome breaks; generally, host-cell proteins repair this damage, often introducing mutations. Many transposons also use host proteins in the transposition mechanism or in regulation. Transposition in systems lacking host factors that influence the behaviour of these transpositions is useful in determining what those factors are and how they work. In addition, features of transposition and regulation intrinsic to the element itself can be determined. Maize Activator/Dissociation (Ac/Ds) elements transpose in a wide variety of heterologous plants, but their characteristics in these other systems differ from those in maize, including their response to increasing genetic dosage and the types of repair products recovered following excision. Two Arabidopsis thaliana mutants (iae1 and iae2) show increased Ac transposition frequencies. These mutants, and the differences mentioned above, suggest the involvement of host proteins in Ac/Ds activity and potential differences between these proteins among plant species. Here we report that Ac/Ds elements, members of the hAT (hobo, Ac, Tam3) superfamily, transpose in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, an organism lacking class II ('cut and paste') transposons. This demonstrates that plant-specific proteins are not essential for Ac/Ds transposition. The yeast system is valuable for dissecting the Ac/Ds transposition mechanism and identifying host factors that can influence transposition and the repair of DNA damage induced by Ac/Ds. Mutations caused by Ds excision in yeast suggest formation of a DNA-hairpin intermediate, and reinsertions occur throughout the genome with a frequency similar to that in plants. The high proportion of Ac/Ds reinsertions also makes this system an in vivo mutagenesis and reverse genetics tool in yeast and, presumably, other eukaryotic systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • DNA Repair
  • DNA Transposable Elements*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis, Insertional
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides
  • Plasmids
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / enzymology
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics*
  • Zea mays / enzymology
  • Zea mays / genetics*


  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides