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Background: Transposable elements are significant components of most organism’s genomes, yet the reasons why their abundances vary significantly among species is poorly understood. A recent study has suggested that even in the absence of traditional molecular evolutionary explanations, transposon proliferation may occur through a process known as ‘transposon engineering’. However, their model used a fixed beneficial transposon insertion frequency of 20%, which we believe to be unrealistically high. Results: Reducing this beneficial insertion frequency, while keeping all other parameters identical, prevented transposon proliferation. Conclusions: We conclude that the author’s original findings are better explained through the action of positive selection rather than ‘transposon engineering’, with beneficial insertion effects remaining important during transposon proliferation events.
Butler, C. L., Bell, E. A., & Taylor, M. I. (2021). Removal of beneficial insertion effects prevent the long-term persistence of transposable elements within simulated asexual populations. BMC Genomics, 22(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12864-021-07569-3