Transposable elements and insecticide resistance

Adv Genet. 2012;78:169-201. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-394394-1.00002-X.


Transposable elements (TEs) are mobile DNA sequences that are able to copy themselves within a host genome. They were initially characterized as selfish genes because of documented or presumed costs to host fitness, but it has become increasingly clear that not all TEs reduce host fitness. A good example of TEs benefiting hosts is seen with insecticide resistance, where in a number of cases, TE insertions near specific genes confer resistance to these man-made products. This is particularly true of Accord and associated TEs in Drosophila melanogaster and Doc insertions in Drosophila simulans. The first of these insertions also has sexually antagonistic fitness effects in the absence of insecticides, and although the magnitude of this effect depends on the genetic background in which Accord finds itself, this represents an excellent example of intralocus sexual conflict where the precise allele involved is well characterized. We discuss this finding and the role of TEs in insecticide resistance. We also highlight areas for further research, including the need for surveys of the prevalence and fitness consequences of the Doc insertion and how Drosophila can be used as models to investigate resistance in pest species.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / genetics
  • DNA Transposable Elements*
  • Drosophila / drug effects
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / drug effects
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Insecticide Resistance*


  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System