Drosophila P elements preferentially transpose to replication origins.
The P transposable element recently invaded wild Drosophila melanogaster strains worldwide. A single introduced copy can multiply and spread throughout the fly genome in just a few generations, even though its cut-and-paste transposition mechanism does not inherently increase copy number. P element insertions preferentially target the promoters of a subset of genes, but why these sites are hotspots remains unknown. We show that P elements selectively target sites that in tissue-culture cells bind origin recognition complex proteins and function as replication origins. The association of origin recognition complex-binding sites with selected promoters and their absence near clustered differentiation genes may dictate P element site specificity. Inserting at unfired replication origins during S phase may allow P elements to be both repaired and reduplicated, thereby increasing element copy number. The advantage transposons gain by moving from replicated to unreplicated genomic regions may contribute to the association of heterochromatin with late-replicating genomic regions.