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Review article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Helitrons: genomic parasites that generate developmental novelties

Barro-Trastoy, Daniela; Koehler, Claudia


Helitrons, classified as DNA transposons, employ rolling-circle intermediates for transposition. Distinguishing themselves from other DNA transposons, they leave the original template element unaltered during transposition, which has led to their characterization as 'peel-and-paste elements'. Helitrons possess the ability to capture and mobilize host genome fragments, with enormous consequences for host genomes. This review discusses the current understanding of Helitrons, exploring their origins, transposition mechanism, and the extensive repercussions of their activity on genome structure and function. We also explore the evolutionary conflicts stemming from Helitron-transposed gene fragments and elucidate their domestication for regulating responses to environmental challenges. Looking ahead, further research in this evolving field promises to bring interesting discoveries on the role of Helitrons in shaping genomic landscapes.

Published in

Trends in Genetics
2024, Volume: 40, number: 5, pages: 437-448
Publisher: CELL PRESS

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