A genomic survey of Tc1-mariner transposons in nematodes suggests extensive horizontal transposon transfer events

Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2021 May:158:107090. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2021.107090. Epub 2021 Feb 2.


The number of reports concerning horizontal transposon transfers (HTT) in metazoan species is considerably increased, alongside with the exponential growth of genomic sequence data However, our understanding of the mechanisms of such phenomenon is still at an early stage. Nematodes constitute an animal phylum successfully adapted to almost every ecosystem and for this reason could potentially contribute to spreading the genetic information through horizontal transfer. To date, few studies describe HTT of nematode retrotransposons. This is due to the lack of annotation of transposable elements in the sequenced nematode genomes, especially DNA transposons, which are acknowledged as the best horizontal travelers among mobile sequences. We have therefore started a survey of DNA transposons and their possible involvement in HTT in sequenced nematode genomes. Here, we describe 83 new Tc1/mariner elements distributed in 17 nematode species. Among them, nine families were possibly horizontally transferred between nematodes and the most diverse animal species, including ants as preferred partner of HTT. The results obtained suggest that HTT events involving nematodes Tc1/mariner elements are not uncommon, and that nematodes could have a possible role as transposon reservoir that, in turn, can be redistributed among animal genomes. Overall, this could be relevant to understand how the inter-species genetic flows shape the landscape of genetic variation of organisms inhabiting specific environmental communities.

Keywords: Evolution; Horizontal transfer; Nematodes; Tc1/mariner elements; Transposable elements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • DNA Transposable Elements / genetics*
  • Databases, Genetic
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal
  • Genome*
  • Nematoda / classification
  • Nematoda / genetics*
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S / classification
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S / genetics


  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S