Nature Reviews Genetics 12, 615-627 (September 2011) | doi:10.1038/nrg3030

Dynamic interactions between transposable elements and their hosts

Henry L. Levin1 & John V. Moran2  About the authors


Transposable elements (TEs) have a unique ability to mobilize to new genomic locations, and the major advance of second-generation DNA sequencing has provided insights into the dynamic relationship between TEs and their hosts. It now is clear that TEs have adopted diverse strategies — such as specific integration sites or patterns of activity — to thrive in host environments that are replete with mechanisms, such as small RNAs or epigenetic marks, that combat TE amplification. Emerging evidence suggests that TE mobilization might sometimes benefit host genomes by enhancing genetic diversity, although TEs are also implicated in diseases such as cancer. Here, we discuss recent findings about how, where and when TEs insert in diverse organisms.

Author affiliations

  1. Section on Eukaryotic Transposable Elements, Laboratory of Gene Regulation and Development, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.
  2. Departments of Human Genetics and Internal Medicine and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109–6518, USA.

Correspondence to: Henry L. Levin1 Email:

Correspondence to: John V. Moran2 Email:

Published online 18 August 2011