Jack of all trades versus master of one: how generalist versus specialist strategies of transposable elements relate to their horizontal transfer between lineages

Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2023 Aug:81:102080. doi: 10.1016/j.gde.2023.102080. Epub 2023 Jul 15.


Transposable elements (TEs) are obligate genomic parasites, relying on host germline cells to ensure their replication and passage to future generations. While some TEs exhibit high fidelity to their host genome, being passed from parent to offspring through vertical transmission for millions of years, others frequently invade new and distantly related hosts through horizontal transfer. In this review, I highlight how the complexity of interactions between TE and host required for transposition may be an important determinant of horizontal transfer: with TEs with more complex regulatory requirements being less able to invade new host genomes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA Transposable Elements* / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal / genetics
  • Genomics


  • DNA Transposable Elements