Hénaff E, Vives C, Desvoyes B, Chaurasia A, Payet J, Gutierrez C, Casacuberta JM
Transposable elements (TEs) are major players in genome evolution. The effects of their movement vary from gene knockouts to more subtle effects such as changes in gene expression. It has recently been shown that TEs may contain transcription factor binding sites (TFBSs), and it has been proposed that they may rewire new genes into existing transcriptional networks. However, little is known about the dynamics of this process and its effect on transcription factor binding. Here we show that TEs have extensively amplified the number of sequences that match the E2F TFBS during Brassica speciation, and, as a result, as many as 85% of the sequences that fit the E2F TFBS consensus are within TEs in some Brassica species. We show that these sequences found within TEs bind E2Fa in vivo, which indicates a direct effect of these TEs on E2F-mediated gene regulation. Our results suggest that the TEs located close to genes may directly participate in gene promoters, whereas those located far from genes may have an indirect effect by diluting the effective amount of E2F protein able to bind to its cognate promoters. These results illustrate an extreme case of the effect of TEs in TFBS evolution, and suggest a singular way by which they affect host genes by modulating essential transcriptional networks.