The Tc1/mariner family of DNA transposons is widespread across fungal, plant and animal kingdoms, and thought to contribute to the evolution of their host genomes. To date, an active Tc1 transposon has not been identified within the native genome of a vertebrate. We demonstrate that Passport, a native transposon isolated from a fish (Pleuronectes platessa), is active in a variety of vertebrate cells. In transposition assays, we found that the Passport transposon system improved stable cellular transgenesis by 40-fold, has an apparent preference for insertion into genes, and is subject to overproduction inhibition like other Tc1 elements. Passport represents the first vertebrate Tc1 element described as both natively intact and functionally active, and given its restricted phylogenetic distribution, may be contemporaneously active. The Passport transposon system thus complements the available genetic tools for the manipulation of vertebrate genomes, and may provide a unique system for studying the infiltration of vertebrate genomes by Tc1 elements.
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