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Science. 1997 Jun 13;276(5319):1716-9.

Trans-kingdom transposition of the Drosophila element mariner within the protozoan Leishmania.

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  • 1Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.

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  • Science 1997 Aug 8;277(5327):753.


Transposable elements of the mariner/Tc1 family are postulated to have spread by horizontal transfer and be relatively independent of host-specific factors. This was tested by introducing the Drosophila mauritiana element mariner into the human parasite Leishmania major, a trypanosomatid protozoan belonging to one of the most ancient eukaryotic lineages. Transposition in Leishmania was efficient, occurring in more than 20 percent of random transfectants, and proceeded by the same mechanism as in Drosophila. Insertional inactivation of a specific gene was obtained, and a modified mariner element was used to select for gene fusions, establishing mariner as a powerful genetic tool for Leishmania and other organisms. These experiments demonstrate the evolutionary range of mariner transposition in vivo and underscore the ability of this ubiquitous DNA to parasitize the eukaryotic genome.

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