Plant Molecular Biology

, Volume 57, Issue 1, pp 115-127

First online:

A novel class of Helitron- related transposable elements in maize contain portions of multiple pseudogenes

  • Smriti GuptaAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, Oakland University
  • , Andrea GallavottiAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of California
  • , Gabrielle A. StrykerAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, Oakland University
  • , Robert J. SchmidtAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of California
  • , Shailesh K. LalAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, Oakland University Email author 

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We recently described a maize mutant caused by an insertion of a Helitron type transposable element (Lal, S.K., Giroux, M.J., Brendel, V., Vallejos, E. and Hannah, L.C., 2003, Plant Cell, 15: 381–391). Here we describe another Helitron insertion in the barren stalk1 gene of maize. The termini of a 6525 bp insertion in the proximal promoter region of the mutant reference allele of maize barren stalk1 gene (ba1-ref) shares striking similarity to the Helitron insertion we reported in the Shrunken-2 gene. This insertion is embedded with pseudogenes that differ from the pseudogenes discovered in the mutant Shrunken-2 insertion. Using the common terminal ends of the mutant insertions as a query, we discovered other Helitron insertions in maize BAC clones. Based on the comparison of the insertion site and PCR amplified genomic sequences, these elements inserted between AT dinucleotides. These putative non-autonomous Helitroninsertions completely lacked sequences similar to RPA (replication protein A) and DNA Helicases reported in other species. A blastn analysis indicated that both the 5′ and 3′ termini of Helitrons are repeated in the maize genome. These data provide strong evidence that Helitron type transposable elements are active and may have played an essential role in the evolution and expansion of the maize genome.


genome evolution Helitrons transposable elements