Send to

Choose Destination
BMC Genomics. 2015 Feb 27;16:137. doi: 10.1186/s12864-015-1318-6.

Horizontal transfer of a non-autonomous Helitron among insect and viral genomes.

Author information

United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Corn Insects & Crop Genetics Research Unit, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, 50011, USA.
Department of Entomology, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, 50011, USA.



The movement of mobile elements among species by horizontal transposon transfer (HTT) influences the evolution of genomes through the modification of structure and function. Helitrons are a relatively new lineage of DNA-based (class II) transposable elements (TEs) that propagate by rolling-circle replication, and are capable of acquiring host DNA. The rapid spread of Helitrons among animal lineages by HTT is facilitated by shuttling in viral particles or by unknown mechanisms mediated by close organism associations (e.g. between hosts and parasites).


A non-autonomous Helitron independently annotated as BmHel-2 from Bombyx mori and the MITE01 element from Ostrinia nubilalis was predicted in the genomes of 24 species in the insect Order Lepidoptera. Integrated Helitrons retained ≥ 65% sequence identity over a 250 bp consensus, and were predicted to retain secondary structures inclusive of a 3'-hairpin and a 5'-subterminal inverted repeat. Highly similar Hel-2 copies were predicted in the genomes of insects and associated viruses, which along with a previous documented case of real-time virus-insect cell line transposition suggests that this Helitron has likely propagated by HTT.


These findings provide evidence that insect virus may mediate the HTT of Helitron-like TEs. This movement may facilitate the shuttling of DNA elements among insect genomes. Further sampling is required to determine the putative role of HTT in insect genome evolution.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for BioMed Central Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center