Living Reference Work Entry

Molecular Life Sciences

pp 1-23

Date: Latest Version

Mobile DNA: Mechanisms, Utility, and Consequences

  • Adam R. ParksAffiliated withMolecular Control and Genetics Section, Gene Regulation and Chromosome Biology Laboratory, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health
  • , Joseph E. PetersAffiliated withDepartment of Microbiology, Cornell University Email author 


Mobile DNA elements contain sequences that enable them to physically move within or between different DNA molecules in a cell. These elements are ubiquitous in nature and are found throughout each of the three domains of life and can be found in many ectopic DNA molecules, such as viral genomes and plasmids. They can perform a variety of functions for a host organism and mobilize genetic information from one host to another. There are three major strategies that are adopted by these elements to mobilize, which include transposition, conservative site-specific recombination, and target-primed reverse transcription. Mobilization of genetic elements is typically a highly regulated process and can have some important consequences or perform vital functions for organisms.


All organisms depend on faithful reproduction of their genetic material for their continued survival. However, in this section we will consider mobile genetic elements, segments of DNA that challenge the ...

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