Eukaryotic genomes comprise a large proportion of repeated sequences, an important fraction of which are transposable elements (TEs). TEs are mobile elements that have a significant impact on genome evolution and on gene functioning. Although some TE insertions could provide adaptive advantages to species, transposition is a highly mutagenic event that has to be tightly controlled to ensure its viability. Genomes have evolved sophisticated mechanisms to control TE activity, the most important being epigenetic silencing. However, the epigenetic control of TEs can also affect genes located nearby that can become epigenetically regulated. It has been proposed that the combination of TE mobilization and the induced changes in the epigenetic landscape could allow a rapid phenotypic adaptation to global environmental changes. In this review, we argue the crucial need to take into account the repeated part of genomes when studying the global impact of epigenetic modifications on an organism. We emphasize more particularly why it is important to carefully consider TEs and what bioinformatic tools can be used to do so.
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