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Nat Genet. 2003 Jan;33(1):102-6. Epub 2002 Dec 16.

Transcriptional activation of retrotransposons alters the expression of adjacent genes in wheat.

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  • 1Department of Plant Sciences, The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel.


Retrotransposons are a principal component of most eukaryotic genomes, representing roughly 40% of the human genome and 50-80% of some grass genomes. They are usually transcriptionally silent but can be activated under certain stresses. Despite their considerable contribution to genome structure, their impact on the expression of adjacent genes is not well understood. The steady-state transcript levels originating from Wis 2-1A retrotransposons are much higher in newly synthesized wheat amphiploids (two or more diverged genomes in the same nucleus). On activation, both Wis 2-1A long terminal repeats drive the readout synthesis of new transcripts from adjacent sequences including the antisense or sense strands of known genes. Here we report that activation of these antisense or sense transcripts is associated with silencing or activation of the corresponding genes, respectively. These data, together with the abundance of retrotransposons in genomes and their ability to be activated by various signals, support the view of transposons as potential controlling elements.

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