Transposons are often likened to genetic parasites – rarely benefit the organisms in whose genomes they appear – they have been a boon to scientists. Geneticists have been using these "jumping genes" to knock out (and smuggle in) sequences in such model organisms as Drosophila and Arabidopsis for decades. Transposons that function in mammals have proved far more elusive, however.

Recently, researchers from the United States and China found that a transposon dubbed piggyBac, derived from the cabbage looper moth, can be used to rapidly knock out and insert genes in mice.1 The team, led by Yale University School of Medicine geneticist Tian Xu, used piggyBac to generate 75 different genetic knockout mouse strains in three months. Now Xu and colleagues are collaborating with researchers at Fudan University in Shanghai to produce new knockout strains that will be made available to the scientific community.

The piggyBac transposon is only...

Interested in reading more?

Magaizne Cover

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?