Molecular Genetics and Genomics

, Volume 270, Issue 2, pp 173–180 | Cite as

Molecular evolutionary analysis of the widespread piggyBac transposon family and related "domesticated" sequences

  • A. Sarkar
  • C. Sim
  • Y. S. Hong
  • J. R. Hogan
  • M. J. Fraser
  • H. M. Robertson
  • F. H. Collins
Original Paper


piggyBac is a short inverted-repeat-type DNA transposable element originally isolated from the genome of the moth Trichoplusia ni. It is currently the gene vector of choice for the transformation of various insect species. A few sequences with similarity to piggyBac have previously been identified from organisms such as humans ( Looper), the pufferfish Takifugu rubripes (Pigibaku), Xenopus (Tx), Daphnia (Pokey), and the Oriental fruit fly Bactrocera dorsalis. We have now identified 50 piggyBac-like sequences from publicly available genome sequences and expressed sequence tags (ESTs). This survey allows the first comparative examination of the distinctive piggyBac transposase, suggesting that it might contain a highly divergent DDD domain, comparable to the widespread DDE domain found in many DNA transposases and retroviral integrases which consists of two absolutely conserved aspartic acids separated by about 70 amino acids with a highly conserved glutamic acid about 35 amino acids further away. Many piggyBac-like sequences were found in the genomes of a phylogenetically diverse range of organisms including fungi, plants, insects, crustaceans, urochordates, amphibians, fishes and mammals. Also, several instances of "domestication" of the piggyBac transposase sequence by the host genome for cellular functions were identified. Novel members of the piggyBac family may be useful in genetic engineering of many organisms.


piggyBac Transposable element Transposase TTAA-specific DDE domain 



The work described here was supported by NIH grants GM58826 (HMR) and P01AI45123 (P.I. Frank Collins), NIH cooperative agreement U01AI48846 (P.I. Frank Collins) and NIH cooperative agreement U01AI50687-01 (Large scale sequencing and assembly of the An. gambiae genome; P.I. Robert A. Holt, Celera Genomics)

Supplementary material

Supplementary Data Files


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Sarkar
    • 1
  • C. Sim
    • 1
  • Y. S. Hong
    • 1
  • J. R. Hogan
    • 1
  • M. J. Fraser
    • 1
  • H. M. Robertson
    • 2
  • F. H. Collins
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Tropical Disease Research and Training, Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of Notre DameNotre DameUSA
  2. 2.Department of EntomologyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA

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