Transposable elements and genetic instabilities in crop plants : (controlling elements, recurrent mutations, hybrid dysgenesis, somatic mutations, tissue culture)
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Transposable elements have long been associated with certain unstable loci in maize and have been intensively studied by McClintock and others. It is known that a transposable element can control the expression of the structural genes at the locus where it resides. These controlling elements in maize are now beginning to be studied at the molecular level. Using recombinant molecular probes we have been able to describe the changes induced by the controlling element DS at the shrunken locus. DS elements appear to be large and dissimilar insertions into the wild-type locus -- two elements actually map within the transcribed region of the gene. Genetic instabilities have been described in other economically important plants but the bases for these phenomena have not been understood. We believe that it is likely that some of these instabilities are the result of transposable element activity much as in the case of maize.