Retroelements and their impact on genome evolution and functioning

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2009 Dec;66(23):3727-42. doi: 10.1007/s00018-009-0107-2. Epub 2009 Aug 2.


Retroelements comprise a considerable fraction of eukaryotic genomes. Since their initial discovery by Barbara McClintock in maize DNA, retroelements have been found in genomes of almost all organisms. First considered as a "junk DNA" or genomic parasites, they were shown to influence genome functioning and to promote genetic innovations. For this reason, they were suggested as an important creative force in the genome evolution and adaptation of an organism to altered environmental conditions. In this review, we summarize the up-to-date knowledge of different ways of retroelement involvement in structural and functional evolution of genes and genomes, as well as the mechanisms generated by cells to control their retrotransposition.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Eukaryota / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genome*
  • Long Interspersed Nucleotide Elements / physiology
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Polyadenylation
  • Pseudogenes / physiology
  • RNA Splice Sites
  • Recombination, Genetic
  • Retroelements / physiology*
  • Short Interspersed Nucleotide Elements / physiology
  • Transduction, Genetic


  • RNA Splice Sites
  • Retroelements