Mobile Elements in Maize: A Force in Evolutionary and Plant Breeding Processes

  • Peter A. Peterson
Part of the Stadler Genetics Symposia Series book series (SGSS)


Mobile elements in maize Zea mays L. are DNA segments of various sizes that insert into DNA sequences. When a mobile element is inserted into a functional gene, the gene becomes incapacitated by the element interrupting its activity. This interruption in the genes’ functional capacity is caused by precocious termination of the transcript or by an early stop signal because it is possible to form a chimeric transcript.

Mobile elements are varied in size and functional capacity and are distinguished as different systems composed of a regulatory and receptor element. A receptor element originates as a defective regulatory element that has lost the capacity to induce excision events. When an element (regulatory or receptor) is inserted, the target-site DNA duplicates a DNA sequence of three or more DNA bases and the size of the element is excised, several events may occur, including the retention of the duplication, a return to wild type, or the alteration of the sequences including the duplication. This alteration in DNA sequences leads to codon changes, or frameshifts in the transcript that have consequence on the protein that is formed from that gene. This would contribute to genetic diversity.

In a canvass for active mobile elements of a limited sample of an important corn breeding population, the BSSS series (Iowa Stiff Stalk Synthetic), two (Uq and Mrh) of seven active mobile elements tested for were found. These were present in four of the six cycles of BSSS sampled, though only the C3 cycle had both elements present. The others did not expose the elements, probably due to a limited sample.

It was anticipated that the excessive alterations that were induced by mobile elements in maize will generate the type of diversity leading to genotypes with selective attributes. None of the inbreds tested for had elements indicating that their effects, coupled with breeding protocol, would tend to eliminate mobile element presence in inbred lines.


Transposable Element Cold Spring Harbor Mobile Element Terminal Inverted Repeat Maize Inbred Line 
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© Plenum Press, New York 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter A. Peterson
    • 1
  1. 1.Agronomy DepartmentIowa State UniversityAmesUSA

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