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Mutator And MULE Transposons

Damon Lisch

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ABSTRACT The Mutator system of transposable elements (TEs) is a highly mutagenic family of transposons in maize. Because they transpose at high rates and target genic regions, these transposons can rapidly generate large numbers of new mutants, which has made the Mutator system a favored tool for both forward and reverse mutagenesis in maize. Low copy number versions of this system have also proved to be excellent models for understanding the regulation and behavior of Class II transposons in plants. Notably, the availability of a naturally occurring locus that can heritably silence autonomous Mutator elements has provided insights into the means by which otherwise active transposons are recognized and silenced. This chapter will provide a review of the biology, regulation, evolution and uses of this remarkable transposon system, with an emphasis on recent developments in our understanding of the ways in which this TE system is recognized and epigenetically silenced as well as recent evidence that Mu -like elements ( MULE s) have had a significant impact on the evolution of plant genomes.