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Open Access Research article

A yeast model for target-primed (non-LTR) retrotransposition

Timothy JD Goodwin1*, Jason N Busby12 and Russell TM Poulter1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biochemistry, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

2 School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

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BMC Genomics 2007, 8:263  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-8-263

Published: 3 August 2007



Target-primed (non-LTR) retrotransposons, such as the human L1 element, are mobile genetic elements found in many eukaryotic genomes. They are often present in large numbers and their retrotransposition can cause mutations and genomic rearrangements. Despite their importance, many aspects of their replication are not well understood.


We have developed a yeast model system for studying target-primed retrotransposons. This system uses the Zorro3 element from Candida albicans. A cloned copy of Zorro3, tagged with a retrotransposition indicator gene, retrotransposes at a high frequency when introduced into an appropriate C. albicans host strain. Retrotransposed copies of the tagged element exhibit similar features to the native copies, indicating that the natural retrotransposition pathway is being used. Retrotransposition is dependent on the products of the tagged element's own genes and is highly temperature-regulated. The new assay permits the analysis of the effects of specific mutations introduced into the cloned element.


This Zorro3 retrotransposition assay system complements previously available target-primed retrotransposition assays. Due to the relative simplicity of the growth, manipulation and analysis of yeast cells, the system should advance our understanding of target-primed retrotransposition.