On the Base Composition of Transposable Elements

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Transposable elements exhibit a base composition that is often different from the genomic average and from hosts’ genes. The most common compositional bias is towards Adenosine and Thymine, although this bias is not universal, and elements with drastically different base composition can coexist within the same genome. The AT-richness of transposable elements is apparently maladaptive because it results in poor transcription and sub-optimal translation of proteins encoded by the elements. The cause(s) of this unusual base composition remain unclear and have yet to be investigated. Here, I review what is known about the nucleotide content of transposable elements and how this content can affect the genome of their host as well as their own replication. The compositional bias of transposable elements could result from several non-exclusive processes including horizontal transfer, mutational bias, and selection. It appears that mutation alone cannot explain the high AT-content of transposons and that selection plays a major role in the evolution of the compositional bias. The reason why selection would favor a maladaptive nucleotide content remains however unexplained and is an area of investigation that clearly deserves attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4755
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2022


  • GC content
  • base composition
  • codon bias
  • transposable elements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'On the Base Composition of Transposable Elements'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this