Modularity and diversity of target selectors in Tn7 transposons.
To spread, transposons must integrate into target sites without disruption of essential genes while avoiding host defense systems. Tn7-like transposons employ multiple mechanisms for target-site selection, including protein-guided targeting and, in CRISPR-associated transposons (CASTs), RNA-guided targeting. Combining phylogenomic and structural analyses, we conducted a broad survey of target selectors, revealing diverse mechanisms used by Tn7 to recognize target sites, including previously uncharacterized target-selector proteins found in newly discovered transposable elements (TEs). We experimentally characterized a CAST I-D system and a Tn6022-like transposon that uses TnsF, which contains an inactivated tyrosine recombinase domain, to target the comM gene. Additionally, we identified a non-Tn7 transposon, Tsy, encoding a homolog of TnsF with an active tyrosine recombinase domain, which we show also inserts into comM. Our findings show that Tn7 transposons employ modular architecture and co-opt target selectors from various sources to optimize target selection and drive transposon spread.
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