Transposable elements (TEs) constitute the majority of plant genomes, but most are epigenetically inactivated by their host. Research over the last decade has elucidated many of the molecular components that are required for TE silencing. In contrast, the evolutionary dynamics between TEs and silencing pathways are less clear. Here, we discuss current information about these dynamics from both mechanistic and evolutionary perspectives. We highlight new evidence that palindromic sequences within TEs may act as signals for host recognition and that cis-regulatory regions of TEs may be sites of ongoing arms races with host defenses. We also discuss patterns of TE aging after they are silenced; while there is not yet a consensus, it appears that TEs are removed more rapidly near genes, such that older TE insertions tend to be farther from genes. We conclude by discussing the energetic costs for maintaining silencing pathways, which appear to be substantive. The maintenance of silencing pathways across many species suggests that epigenetic emergencies are frequent.
Bousios, A., & Gaut, B. S. (2016, April 1). Mechanistic and evolutionary questions about epigenetic conflicts between transposable elements and their plant hosts. Current Opinion in Plant Biology. Elsevier Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pbi.2016.02.009