The days of 'junk DNA' seem to be over. The rapid progress of genomics technologies has been unveiling unexpected mechanisms by which repetitive DNA and in particular transposable elements (TEs) have evolved, becoming key issues in understanding genome structure and function. Indeed, rather than 'parasites', recent findings strongly suggest that TEs may have a positive function by contributing to tissue specific transcriptional programs, in particular as enhancer-like elements and/or modules for regulation of higher order chromatin structure. Further, it appears that during development and aging genomes experience several waves of TEs activation, and this contributes to individual genome shaping during lifetime. Interestingly, TEs activity is the major target of epigenomic regulation. These findings are shedding new light on the genome-phenotype relationship and set the premises to help to explain complex disease manifestation, as a consequence of TEs activity deregulation.