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Transposition of mobile genetic elements can radically alter genome structure and sequence. In doing so, they can alter gene expression and cellular function. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this potentially catastrophic process is heavily constrained, especially in the germ line where aberrations lead to sterility or could be passed onto the next generation. However, recent studies in mammals and fruit flies suggest that transposition happens at measurable levels in the brain, and possibly more so in some cell types than in others. This has led to the suggestion that certain cell types may utilize transposable elements to diversify cellular properties. In this review, we discuss these findings and ideas in light of our current understanding of transposons and their control in the fly, and the growing evidence for an involvement of transposition in neurological disease in humans.

Original publication




Journal article


Adv Genet

Publication Date





65 - 92


Brain, Drosophila, Evolution, Genetic mosaicism, Neural diversity, Neural transposition, Neurological disease, Animals, Brain, DNA Transposable Elements, Drosophila, Genome, Humans