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Transposable Elements: From DNA Parasites to Architects of Metazoan Evolution

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Author(s): Oliver Piskurek | Daniel J. Jackson

Journal: Genes
ISSN 2073-4425

Volume: 3;
Issue: 3;
Start page: 409;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: transposable element | junk DNA | molecular parasite | molecular domestication | functionalisation | exonisation | exaptation | SINE | LINE

ABSTRACT
One of the most unexpected insights that followed from the completion of the human genome a decade ago was that more than half of our DNA is derived from transposable elements (TEs). Due to advances in high throughput sequencing technologies it is now clear that TEs comprise the largest molecular class within most metazoan genomes. TEs, once categorised as "junk DNA", are now known to influence genomic structure and function by increasing the coding and non-coding genetic repertoire of the host. In this way TEs are key elements that stimulate the evolution of metazoan genomes. This review highlights several lines of TE research including the horizontal transfer of TEs through host-parasite interactions, the vertical maintenance of TEs over long periods of evolutionary time, and the direct role that TEs have played in generating morphological novelty.
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