We have identified a new En/Spm-like transposable element, Tdc1, in the 5' flanking region of a phenylalanine ammonia-lyase gene (gDcPAL1) that is normally induced by transferring cells of carrot suspension cultures to fresh liquid medium (transfer or dilution effect). The initial integration into gDcPAL1 occurred more than 4 years after culture initiation. Tdc1 was first detected in gDcPAL1 genomic clones of a genomic library made from cells of the same cultured cell line 7 years after its initiation and thus following repeated subculturing. Twelve years after initiation, about 5-10% of the cells had Tdc1 inserted into the gDcPAL1 gene, indicating that Tdc1 insertion into gDcPAL1 occurred in one (or more) cell(s) during the first 4-7 years of subculturing. These mutant cells did not disappear during numerous passages; instead the proportion of cells having this Tdc1 inserted into gDcPAL1 has been increasing over the last 5 years. The promoter activity and the inducibility by transfer/dilution of the gDcPAL1 gene harboring Tdc1 is reduced relative to wild type. Finally, we show that insertion of a transposable element is one of the mechanisms that can cause variation of plant cell cultures during repeated subculture.