„Transposable elements (TEs)" are small DNA segments found in nearly all genomes across the tree of life. Their function is not fully understood, but their properties are remarkable: they can integrate themselves into DNA and also replicate there on their own, independent of their host. Therefore, it is assumed that the proliferation of TEs has contributed decisively to the genome size of eukaryotes. However, TEs are also found in prokaryotes, which have much smaller genomes. Moreover, their genomes are significantly streamlined, meaning a much smaller proportion is non-coding. What's behind this?
With the help of computer modeling, a team of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology has now succeeded in shedding some light on the matter.