When phage, plasmids, and transposons collide: genomic islands, and conjugative- and mobilizable-transposons as a mosaic continuum

Plasmid. 2002 Nov;48(3):202-12. doi: 10.1016/s0147-619x(02)00117-8.


Plasmids and bacteriophage represent the classical vectors for gene transfer within the horizontal gene pool. However, the more recent discovery of an increasing array of other mobile genetic elements (MGE) including genomic islands (GIs), conjugative transposons (CTns), and mobilizable transposons (MTns) which each integrate within the chromosome, offer an increasingly diverse assemblage contributing to bacterial adaptation and evolution. Molecular characterisation of these elements has revealed that they are comprised of functional modules derived from phage, plasmids, and transposons, and further that these modules are combined to generate a continuum of mosaic MGE. In particular, they are comprised of any one of three distinct types of recombinase, together with plasmid-derived transfer and mobilisation gene functions. This review highlights both the similarities and distinctions between these integrating transferable elements resulting from combination of the MGE toolbox.

MeSH terms

  • Bacteriophages*
  • Chromosomes, Bacterial / genetics
  • Conjugation, Genetic
  • DNA Nucleotidyltransferases / genetics
  • DNA Transposable Elements*
  • Models, Genetic
  • Mosaicism*
  • Plasmids* / genetics
  • Plasmids* / metabolism
  • Recombinases
  • Transposases / genetics
  • Transposon Resolvases
  • Tyrosine / metabolism


  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Recombinases
  • Tyrosine
  • DNA Nucleotidyltransferases
  • Transposases
  • Transposon Resolvases