Transposable elements (TEs) are no longer considered to be “junk” DNA. Here, we review how TEs can impact gene regulation systematically. TEs encode various regulatory elements that enables them to regulate gene expression. RJ Britten and EH Davidson hypothesized that TEs can integrate the function of various transcriptional regulators into gene regulatory networks. Uniquely TEs can deposit regulatory sites across the genome when they transpose, and thereby bring multiple genes under control of the same regulatory logic. Several studies together have robustly established that TEs participate in embryonic development and oncogenesis. We discuss the regulatory characteristics of TEs in context of evolution to understand the extent of their impact on gene networks. Understanding these features of TEs is central to future investigations of TEs in cellular processes and phenotypic presentations, which are applicable to development and disease studies. We re-visit the Britten–Davidson “gene-battery” model and understand the genetic and transcriptional impact of TEs in innovating gene regulatory networks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1700155
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018


  • gene regulation
  • transposable elements


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