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Mol Microbiol. 2019 Sep 10. doi: 10.1111/mmi.14383. [Epub ahead of print]

Targeted transposition with Tn7 elements: safe sites, mobile plasmids, CRISPR/Cas and beyond.

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Department of Microbiology, Cornell University, 175a Wing Hall, Ithaca, NY, 14853, USA.


Transposon Tn7 is notable for the control it exercises over where transposition events are directed. One Tn7 integration pathways recognizes a highly conserved attachment (att) site in the chromosome, while a second pathway specifically recognizes mobile plasmids that facilitate transfer of the element to new hosts. In this review, I discuss newly discovered families of Tn7-like elements with different targeting pathways. Perhaps the most exciting examples are multiple instances where Tn7-like elements have repurposed CRISPR/Cas systems. In these cases, the CRISPR/Cas systems have lost their canonical defensive function to destroy incoming mobile elements; instead, the systems have been naturally adapted to use guide RNAs to specifically direct transposition into these mobile elements. The new families of Tn7-like elements also include a variety of novel att sites in bacterial chromosomes where genome islands can form. Interesting families have also been revealed where proteins described in the prototypic Tn7 element are fused or otherwise repurposed for the new dual activities. This expanded understanding of Tn7-like elements broadens our view of how genetic systems are repurposed and provides potentially exciting new tools for genome modification and genomics. Future opportunities and challenges to understanding the impact of the new families of Tn7-like elements are discussed.


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