Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology
REVIEW

Environmental stress activation of plant long-terminal repeat retrotransposons

Ahmed M. Alzohairy A , Jamal S. M. Sabir B , Gábor Gyulai C , Rania A. A. Younis D , Robert K. Jansen B E and Ahmed Bahieldin B D F
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Genetics Department, Faculty of Agriculture, Zagazig University, Zagazig 44511, Egypt.

B King Abdulaziz University, Faculty of Science, Department of Biological Sciences, Genomics and Biotechnology Section, Jeddah 21589, Saudi Arabia.

C Institute of Genetics and Biotechnology, St. Stephanus University, Gödöllő H-2103, Hungary.

D Genetics Department, Faculty of Agriculture, Ain Shams University, Cairo 11241, Egypt.

E Department of Integrative Biology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA.

F Corresponding author. Email: bahieldin55@gmail.com

Functional Plant Biology 41(6) 557-567 https://doi.org/10.1071/FP13339
Submitted: 22 November 2013  Accepted: 23 January 2014   Published: 5 March 2014

Abstract

Genomic retrotransposons (RTs) are major components of most plant genomes. They spread throughout the genomes by a process termed retrotransposition, which consists of reverse transcription and reinsertion of the copied element into a new genomic location (a copy-and-paste system). Abiotic and biotic stresses activate long-terminal repeat (LTR) RTs in photosynthetic eukaryotes from algae to angiosperms. LTR RTs could represent a threat to the integrity of host genomes because of their activity and mutagenic potential by epigenetic regulation. Host genomes have developed mechanisms to control the activity of the retroelements and their mutagenic potential. Some LTR RTs escape these defense mechanisms, and maintain their ability to be activated and transpose as a result of biotic or abiotic stress stimuli. These stimuli include pathogen infection, mechanical damage, in vitro tissue culturing, heat, drought and salt stress, generation of doubled haploids, X-ray irradiation and many others. Reactivation of LTR RTs differs between different plant genomes. The expression levels of reactivated RTs are influenced by the transcriptional and post-transcriptional gene silencing mechanisms (e.g. DNA methylation, heterochromatin formation and RNA interference). Moreover, the insertion of RTs (e.g. Triticum aestivum L. Wis2–1A) into or next to coding regions of the host genome can generate changes in the expression of adjacent host genes of the host. In this paper, we review the ways that plant genomic LTR RTs are activated by environmental stimuli to affect restructuring and diversification of the host genome.

Additional keywords: genome dynamics, transposition, retroelement.


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