Transposition of the Tourist-MITE mPing in Yeast: An Assay that Retains Key Features of Catalysis by the Class 2 PIF/Harbinger Superfamily

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PIF/Harbinger is the most recently discovered DNA transposon superfamily and is now known to populate genomes from fungi to plants to animals. Mobilization of superfamily members requires two separate element-encoded proteins (ORF1 and TPase). Members of this superfamily also mobilize Tourist-like miniature inverted repeat transposable elements (MITEs), which are the most abundant transposable elements associated with the genes of plants, especially the cereal grasses. The phylogenetic analysis of many plant genomes indicates that MITEs can amplify rapidly from one or a few elements to hundreds or thousands.

The most active DNA transposon identified to date in plants or animals is mPing, a rice Tourist-like MITE that is a deletion derivative of the autonomous Ping element. Ping and the closely related Pong are the only known naturally active PIF/Harbinger elements. Some rice strains accumulate ~40 new mPing insertions per plant per generation. In this study we report the development of a yeast transposition assay as a first step in deciphering the mechanism underlying the amplification of Tourist-MITEs.

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