Transposable elements: a jump toward the future of expression vectors.

Antonio Palazzo, René Massimiliano Marsano

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Expression vectors (EVs) are artificial nucleic acid molecules with a modular structure that allows for the transcription of DNA sequences of interest in either cellular or cell-free environments. These vectors have emerged as cross-disciplinary tools with multiple applications in an expanding Life Sciences market. The cis-regulatory sequences (CRSs) that control the transcription in EVs are typically sourced from either viruses or from characterized genes. However, the recent advancement in transposable elements (TEs) technology provides attractive alternatives that may enable a significant improvement in the design of EVs. Commonly known as “jumping genes,” due to their ability to move between genetic loci, TEs are constitutive components of both eukaryotic and prokaryotic genomes. TEs harbor native CRSs that allow the regulated transcription of transposition-related genes. However, some TE-related CRSs display striking characteristics, which provides the opportunity to reconsider TEs as lead actors in the design of EVs. In this article, we provide a synopsis of the transcriptional control elements commonly found in EVs together with an extensive discussion of their advantages and limitations. We also highlight the latest findings that may allow for the implementation of TE-derived sequences in the EVs feasible, possibly improving existing vectors. By introducing this new concept of TEs as a source of regulatory sequences, we aim to stimulate a profitable discussion of the potential advantages and benefits of developing a new generation of EVs based on the use of TE-derived control sequences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)792-808
JournalCritical Reviews in Biotechnology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • enhancer
  • evolution
  • expression vectors
  • insulator
  • patenting
  • Promoter
  • silencer
  • species-specificity
  • transposable elements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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