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An Arabidopsis hAT-like transposase is essential for plant development


A significant proportion of the genomes of higher plants and vertebrates consists of transposable elements and their derivatives. Autonomous DNA type transposons encode a transposase that enables them to mobilize to a new chromosomal position in the host genome by a cut-and-paste mechanism. As this is potentially mutagenic, the host limits transposition through epigenetic gene silencing and heterochromatin formation. Here we show that a transposase from Arabidopsis thaliana that we named DAYSLEEPER is essential for normal plant growth; it shares several characteristics with the hAT (hobo, Activator, Tam3) family of transposases1. DAYSLEEPER was isolated as a factor binding to a motif (Kubox1) present in the upstream region of the Arabidopsis DNA repair gene Ku70 (refs 2, 3). This motif is also present in the upstream regions of many other plant genes. Plants lacking DAYSLEEPER or strongly overexpressing this gene do not develop in a normal manner. Furthermore, DAYSLEEPER overexpression results in the altered expression of many genes. Our data indicate that transposase-like genes can be essential for plant development and can also regulate global gene expression. Thus, transposases can become domesticated by the host to fulfil important cellular functions.

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Figure 1: DAYSLEEPER in vitro binding and expression in the mutant plant line.
Figure 2: Phenotypes of DAYSLEEPER knockout and overexpression plants.


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We thank V. Lanquar, Z. Li, A. den Dulk-Ras and M. Corredor for technical assistance, and S. de Pater, P. Ouwerkerk and B. van der Zaal for comments on the manuscript. P.B. and P.H. are supported by the EU FP5 project PLANTREC, the Technology Foundation STW, the Applied Science Division of NWO, and the Technology Programme of the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

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Correspondence to Paul Hooykaas.

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The sequence of the cDNA clone of At3g42170 has been submitted to GenBank (AY728267). Reprints and permissions information is available at The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Figure S1

Alignment of Daysleeper with the transposases from the mobile elements Activator (Ac) from maize, Tam3 from Antirhinum majus and Tag1 from Arabidopsis thaliana. Phylogenetic tree showing Daysleeper homologues from other plant species. (DOC 44 kb)

Supplementary Figure S2

Gel shift and one-hybrid analysis to map the Daysleeper binding site in the AtKU70 promoter. Binding of Daysleeper to another promoter containing the Kubox1 motif. (JPG 124 kb)

Supplementary Figure S2 Legend

Legend to Supplementary Figure S2. (DOC 21 kb)

Supplementary Figure S3

Sequence of the AtKU70 promoter showing the imperfect direct Kubox1 repeats. (DOC 20 kb)

Supplementary Figure S4

Gel shift assay showing the requirement of the Daysleeper BED-type zinc finger for DNA binding. (JPG 17 kb)

Supplementary Figure S4 Legend

Legend to Supplementary Information D1 (DOC 22 kb)

Supplementary Figure S5

Mapping the T-DNA insertion point in DAYSLEEPER. (DOC 21 kb)

Supplementary Table S1

Table of Arabidopsis genes containing part of the Kubox1 motif in their promoter region. (DOC 62 kb)

Supplementary Table S2

Table of Arabidopsis genes showing altered expression after DAYSLEEPER overexpression. (DOC 121 kb)

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Bundock, P., Hooykaas, P. An Arabidopsis hAT-like transposase is essential for plant development. Nature 436, 282–284 (2005).

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