Tol2, a member of the hAT family of transposons, has become a useful tool for genetic manipulation of model animals, but information about its interactions with vertebrate genomes is still limited. Furthermore, published reports on Tol2 have mainly been based on random integration of the transposon system after co-injection of a plasmid DNA harboring the transposon and a transposase mRNA. It is important to understand how Tol2 would behave upon activation after integration into the genome.
We performed a large-scale enhancer trap (ET) screen and generated 338 insertions of the Tol2 transposon-based ET cassette into the zebrafish genome. These insertions were generated by remobilizing the transposon from two different donor sites in two transgenic lines. We found that 39% of Tol2 insertions occurred in transcription units, mostly into introns. Analysis of the transposon target sites revealed no strict specificity at the DNA sequence level. However, Tol2 was prone to target AT-rich regions with weak palindromic consensus sequences centered at the insertion site.
Our systematic analysis of sequential remobilizations of the Tol2 transposon from two independent sites within a vertebrate genome has revealed properties such as a tendency to integrate into transcription units and into AT-rich palindrome-like sequences. This information will influence the development of various applications involving DNA transposons and Tol2 in particular.