Revised nomenclature for transposable genetic elements

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Alexandra Moura

Oct 14, 2008, 8:53:49 AM10/14/08

Plasmid 60 (2008) 167–173

Revised nomenclature for transposable genetic elements

Adam P. Roberts, Michael Chandler, Patrice Courvalin, Gérard Guédon, Peter Mullany,

Tony Pembroke, Julian I. Rood, C. Jeffery Smith, Anne O. Summers, Masataka Tsuda and Douglas E. Berg


Transposable DNA elements occur naturally in the genomes of nearly all species of prokaryotes. A proposal for a uniform transposable element nomenclature was published prominently in the 1970s but is not, at present, available online even in abstract form, and many of the newly discovered elements have been named without reference to it. We propose here an updated version of the original nomenclature system for all of the various types of prokaryotic, autonomous, transposable elements excluding insertion sequences, for which a nomenclature system already exists. The use of this inclusive and sequential Tn numbering system for transposable elements, as described here, recognizes the ease of interspecies spread of individual elements, and allows for the naming of mosaic elements containing segments from two or more previously described types of transposons or plasmids. It will guard against any future need to rename elements following changes in bacterial nomenclature which occurs constantly with our increased understanding of bacterial phylogenies and taxonomic groupings. It also takes into account the increasing importance of metagenomic sequencing projects and the continued identification of new mobile elements from unknown hosts.


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