, Volume 86, Issue 1-3, pp 269-274

Evolutionary dynamics of transposable elements in prokaryotes and eukaryotes

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Abstract

This paper summarizes some recent theories about the evolution of transposable genetic elements in outbreeding, sexual eukaryotic organisms. The evolutionary possibilities available to self-replicating transposable elements are shown to vary depending on the reproductive biology of the host genome. This effect can be used to explain, in part, the differences in abundance of transposable elements between prokaryotes and eukaryotes. It is argued that the pattern of sexual outbreeding seen in mammals and plants is especially favorable to the spread of transposons. Moreover, because transposon spread is facilitated by zygote formation, the evolutionary origin of sexual conjugation may have been due to selection on transposon-encoded genes. Finally, evidence is also presented that introns could have originated as transposable genetic elements.