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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Jul 17;98(15):8714-9. Epub 2001 Jul 10.

Rolling-circle transposons in eukaryotes.

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Genetic Information Research Institute, 2081 Landings Drive, Mountain View, CA 94043, USA.


All eukaryotic DNA transposons reported so far belong to a single category of elements transposed by the so-called "cut-and-paste" mechanism. Here, we report a previously unknown category of eukaryotic DNA transposons, Helitron, which transpose by rolling-circle replication. Autonomous Helitrons encode a 5'-to-3' DNA helicase and nuclease/ligase similar to those encoded by known rolling-circle replicons. Helitron-like transposons have conservative 5'-TC and CTRR-3' termini and do not have terminal inverted repeats. They contain 16- to 20-bp hairpins separated by 10--12 nucleotides from the 3'-end and transpose precisely between the 5'-A and T-3', with no modifications of the AT target sites. Together with their multiple diverged nonautonomous descendants, Helitrons constitute approximately 2% of both the Arabidopsis thaliana and Caenorhabditis elegans genomes and also colonize the Oriza sativa genome. Sequence conservation suggests that Helitrons continue to be transposed.

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