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This article is part of the supplement: Transposons in vertebrate functional genomics

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Technology transfer from worms and flies to vertebrates: transposition-based genome manipulations and their future perspectives

Lajos Mátés1, Zsuzsanna Izsvák12 and Zoltán Ivics1*

Author Affiliations

1 Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, Robert-Rössle-Str., 13092 Berlin, Germany.

2 Institute of Biochemistry, Biological Research Center of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Temesvári krt., 6726 Szeged, Hungary.

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Genome Biology 2007, 8(Suppl 1):S1  doi:10.1186/gb-2007-8-s1-s1

Published: 31 October 2007


To meet the increasing demand of linking sequence information to gene function in vertebrate models, genetic modifications must be introduced and their effects analyzed in an easy, controlled, and scalable manner. In the mouse, only about 10% (estimate) of all genes have been knocked out, despite continuous methodologic improvement and extensive effort. Moreover, a large proportion of inactivated genes exhibit no obvious phenotypic alterations. Thus, in order to facilitate analysis of gene function, new genetic tools and strategies are currently under development in these model organisms. Loss of function and gain of function mutagenesis screens based on transposable elements have numerous advantages because they can be applied in vivo and are therefore phenotype driven, and molecular analysis of the mutations is straightforward. At present, laboratory harnessing of transposable elements is more extensive in invertebrate models, mostly because of their earlier discovery in these organisms. Transposons have already been found to facilitate functional genetics research greatly in lower metazoan models, and have been applied most comprehensively in Drosophila. However, transposon based genetic strategies were recently established in vertebrates, and current progress in this field indicates that transposable elements will indeed serve as indispensable tools in the genetic toolkit for vertebrate models. In this review we provide an overview of transposon based genetic modification techniques used in higher and lower metazoan model organisms, and we highlight some of the important general considerations concerning genetic applications of transposon systems.