The limited distribution of Helitrons to vesper bats supports horizontal transfer

Jainy Thomas, Mehran Sorourian, David Ray, Robert J. Baker, Ellen J. Pritham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Transposable elements (TEs) have the unique ability to move and replicate within the genome and therefore engender dramatic changes to genome architecture. Among different types of TEs, rolling-circle transposons (Helitrons) are well known for their ability to capture and amplify host gene fragments. Bioinformatic analysis revealed that Helitrons constitute ~. 3% of the Myotis lucifugus, (little brown bat) genome, while no Helitrons were found in any of the other 44+ sequenced mammalian genomes. Recently horizontal transfer has been implicated for some of the M. lucifugus Helitrons, in part explaining this disparate distribution among mammals. The purpose of this work is to determine both the distribution of Helitrons among bats and to estimate the number of independent invasions. We employed a combination of in silico, PCR and hybridization based techniques to identify Helitrons from diverse bat species belonging to ten different families. This work reveals that Helitrons invaded the vesper bat lineage, at least once. Indeed, Helitrons were not identified in the sister taxa 'Miniopterus', which suggests that the amplification of Helibat occurred (30-36. mya) only in the vesper bat lineage. The estimated age of amplification of the Helibats and the rapid radiation of vesper bats are roughly coincidental and suggest that the invasion and amplification of these elements might have influenced their evolutionary trajectory potentially contributing to phenotypic and genotypic diversity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-58
Number of pages7
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Mar 15 2011


  • Genome diversification
  • Helitron
  • Horizontal transfer
  • Transposable element
  • Vesper bats


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