J Syst Evol

• Research Articles •    

Landscape and evolutionary dynamics of Helitron transposons in plant genomes as well as construction of online database HelDB

Shu‐Fen Li1, Xin‐Yu Zhang1, Long‐Long Yang1, Ke‐Li Jia1,2, Jia‐Rong Li1, Li‐Na Lan1, Yu‐Lan Zhang1, Ning Li1, Chuan‐Liang Deng1, and Wu‐Jun Gao1*   

  1. 1 College of Life Sciences, Henan Normal University, Xinxiang 453007, China
    2 SanQuan Medical College, Xinxiang Medical University, Xinxiang 453003, China
  • Received:2022-08-10 Accepted:2022-10-31 Online:2022-11-03


Helitron transposons play an important role in host genome evolution due to their ability to capture genes and regulatory elements. In this study, we developed a pipeline to identify and annotate Helitrons systematically from 358 plant and 178 animal high-quality genomes. All these data were organized into HelDB, a database where Helitrons can be explored with a user-friendly Web interface and related software. Based on these data, further analysis showed that the number or the cumulative length of Helitrons is positively correlated with genome size. Helitrons had experienced two expansion periods in plants, with the first occurring 20–30 Ma and peaking at approximately 24 Ma. The second expansion occurred in the last 4 million years. The expansions might be due to stimulation of paleogeographic environment. Detailed investigation of gene capture by Helitrons in Brassicaceae and Solanaceae plants showed that the captured genes showed diverse functions. Interestingly, metal ion binding function was enriched in these captured genes in most species. This phenomenon might be due to the need for binding of divalent metal ions to the Rep domain required for Helitron transposition. This study improves our knowledge of the landscape and evolution of Helitron transposons in plants and paves a way for further functional studies of this kind of transposable element.

Key words: database, evolutionary dynamics, Helitron element, insertion time, transposable element