Transposable elements (TEs) play an important role in the responsive capacity of their hosts in the face of environmental challenges. The variety of mechanisms by which TEs influence the capacity of adaptation of the host is as large as the variety of TEs and host genomes. For example, TEs might directly affect the function of individual genes, provide a mechanism for rapidly acquiring new genetic material and disseminate regulatory elements that can lead to the creation of stress-inducible regulatory networks. In this review, we summarize recent examples that are part of an increasing body of evidence suggesting a significant role of TEs in the host response to an ever-changing environment, both in prokaryote and in eukaryote organisms. We argue that in the near future, the increasing availability of genome sequences and the development of new tools to discover and analyse TE insertions will further show the relevant role of TEs in environmental adaptation.
© 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.