Mobilization of endogenous transposable elements in plants for basic and applied research

December 2023

  • Date: Dec 13, 2023
  • Time: 02:00 PM - 03:30 PM (Local Time Germany)
  • Speaker: Etienne Bucher
  • Agroscope, Switzerland
  • Location: Central Building
  • Room: Lecture Hall
  • Host: Claudia Köhler


Transposable elements (TEs) are one of the main drivers in genome evolution. We hypothesized that because numerous TEs respond to stressed, they could be adaptive as they can create novel gene regulatory pathways that respond to these stresses. To address this, we created Arabidopsis lines that carry novel heat-stress responsive TE insertions and investigated how these lines then respond to stress. In this presentation I will show you the many different ways by which novel TE insertions can impact gene expression and stress adaptation.
Then we wanted to take this one step further: We wanted to mobilize TEs in important crops, such as wheat and rice, to test if we can use TEs to adapt them to climate-change related stresses. It proved to be unexpectedly challenging to mobilize TEs in crops and even more challenging to then test these plants in field experiments. However, we did find that we could mobilize a TE from a special class called Helitrons. Currently, little is known about the regulation and the genomic impact of Helitron mobility but we finally have the opportunity to assess this in great detail in vivo. I will present you our latest findings on the regulation of Helitron mobility and the underlying genetic basis.


Genomic impact of stress-induced transposable element mobility in Arabidopsis. Roquis, D., Robertson, M., Yu, L., Thieme, M., Julkowska, M., and Bucher, E. (2021). Nucleic Acids Res 49, 10431-10447.

Inhibition of RNA polymerase II allows controlled mobilisation of retrotransposons for plant breeding. Thieme, M., Lanciano, S., Balzergue, S., Daccord, N., Mirouze, M., and Bucher, E. (2017). Genome Biology 18, 1-10.

An siRNA pathway prevents transgenerational retrotransposition in plants subjected to stress. Ito, H., Gaubert, H., Bucher, E., Mirouze, M., Vaillant, I., and Paszkowski, J. (2011). Nature 472, 115-119.

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