PiggyBac-ing on a primate genome: Novel elements, recent activity and horizontal transfer

Heidi J.T. Pagan, Jeremy D. Smith, Robert M. Hubley, David A. Ray

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28 Scopus citations


To better understand the extent of Class II transposable element activity in mammals, we investigated the mouse lemur, Microcebus murinus, whole genome shotgun (2X) draft assembly. Analysis of this strepsirrhine primate extended previous research that targeted anthropoid primates and found no activity within the last 37 Myr. We tested the hypothesis that members of the piggyBac Class II superfamily have been inactive in the strepsirrhine lineage of primates during the same period. Evidence against this hypothesis was discovered in the form of three nonautonomous piggyBac elements with activity periods within the past 40 Myr and possibly into the very recent past. In addition, a novel family of piggyBac transposons was identified, suggesting introduction via horizontal transfer. A second autonomous element was also found with high similarity to an element recently described from the little brown bat, Myotis lucifugus, further implicating horizontal transfer in the evolution of this genome. These findings indicate a more complex history of transposon activity in mammals rather than a uniform shutdown of Class II transposition, which had been suggested by analyses of more common model organisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-303
Number of pages11
JournalGenome Biology and Evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2010


  • Horizontal transfer
  • PiggyBac
  • Primate
  • Transposon


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