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

Mol Genet Genomics. 2003 Nov;270(2):173-80. doi: 10.1007/s00438-003-0909-0. Epub 2003 Aug 29.


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.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anopheles / genetics
  • DNA Transposable Elements / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genes, Insect
  • Genome, Human
  • Humans
  • Moths / genetics
  • Phylogeny
  • Tetraodontiformes / genetics


  • DNA Transposable Elements