Transposable elements (TEs) are powerful mutagenic agents responsible for generating variation in the host genome. As TEs can be overtly deleterious, a variety of different mechanisms have evolved to keep their activities in check. In plants, fungi, and animals, RNA silencing has been implicated as a major defense against repetitive element transposition. This nucleic acid-based defense mechanism also appears to be directed at inherited silencing of TEs without altering the underlying DNA sequence. Complex interactions between TEs and RNA silencing machineries have been co-opted to regulate cellular genes.
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