The evolution and function of transposons in epigenetic regulation in response to the environment
Klein SP, Anderson SN 2022. Current Opinion in Plant Biology

Transposable elements (TEs) make up a major proportion of plant genomes. Despite their prevalence genome-wide, TEs are often tossed aside as “junk DNA” since they rarely cause phenotypes, and epigenetic mechanisms silence TEs to prevent them from causing deleterious mutations through movement. While this bleak picture of TEs in genomes is true on average, a growing number of examples across many plant species point to TEs as drivers of phenotypic diversity and novel stress responses. Examples of TE-influenced phenotypes illustrate the many ways that novel transposition events can alter local gene expression and how this relates to potential variation in plant responses to environmental stress. Since TE families and insertions at the locus level lack evolutionary conservation, advancements in the field will require TE experts across diverse species to identify and utilize TE variation in their own systems as a means of crop improvement.