A branching-process model for the evolution of transposable elements incorporating selection

J Math Biol. 1991;29(8):743-61. doi: 10.1007/BF00160190.


We have formulated a very general mathematical model to analyze the evolution of transposable genetic elements in prokaryotic populations. Transposable genetic elements are DNA sequences able to replicate and insert copies of themselves at new locations in the genome. This work characterizes the equilibrium distribution of copy number under the influence of copy number-dependent selection, transposition and deletion. Our principal results concern the equilibrium distribution of copy number in response to various selective regimes. For particular transposition patterns (e.g., unregulated transposition or copy number-dependent transposition), equilibrium distributions are calculated numerically for a variety of specific selection patterns. Selection is quantified through specification of the expected number of offspring for individuals of each type, which is generally a non-increasing function of copy number, in accord with the usual evolutionary speculations.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Chromosome Deletion
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA Transposable Elements*
  • Gene Frequency
  • Mathematics
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Probability
  • Selection, Genetic*


  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • DNA