The contributions of transposable elements to the structure, function, and evolution of plant genomes

Annu Rev Plant Biol. 2014;65:505-30. doi: 10.1146/annurev-arplant-050213-035811. Epub 2014 Feb 21.


Transposable elements (TEs) are the key players in generating genomic novelty by a combination of the chromosome rearrangements they cause and the genes that come under their regulatory sway. Genome size, gene content, gene order, centromere function, and numerous other aspects of nuclear biology are driven by TE activity. Although the origins and attitudes of TEs have the hallmarks of selfish DNA, there are numerous cases where TE components have been co-opted by the host to create new genes or modify gene regulation. In particular, epigenetic regulation has been transformed from a process to silence invading TEs and viruses into a key strategy for regulating plant genes. Most, perhaps all, of this epigenetic regulation is derived from TE insertions near genes or TE-encoded factors that act in trans. Enormous pools of genome data and new technologies for reverse genetics will lead to a powerful new era of TE analysis in plants.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution
  • DNA Transposable Elements*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Genes, Plant*
  • Genome, Plant*
  • Plants / genetics*


  • DNA Transposable Elements