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Open Access Open Badges Research article

ATon, abundant novel nonautonomous mobile genetic elements in yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti)

Guojun Yang12*, Amy Wong12 and Rebecca Rooke12

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biology, University of Toronto Mississauga, SB3058, Mississauga, ON, L5L 1 C6, Canada

2 Cell and System Biology, Toronto, ON, Canada

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BMC Genomics 2012, 13:283  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-13-283

Published: 27 June 2012



Mosquitoes are important pathogen vectors affecting human and other animals. Studies on genetic control of mosquito mediated disease transmission gained traction recently due to mosquito transgenesis technology. Active transposons are considered valuable tools to propagate pathogen resistance transgenes among mosquitoes, rendering the whole population recalcitrant to diseases. A major hurdle in this approach is the inefficient remobilization activity after the integration of heterologous transposon vectors bearing transgenes into chromosomes. Therefore, endogenous active transposons in mosquito genomes are highly desirable.


Starting with the transposable element database of the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti genome, detailed analyses of the members of each TE family were performed to identify sequences with multiple identical copies, an indicator of their latest or current transposition activity. Among a dozen of potentially active TE families, two DNA elements (TF000728 and TF000742 in TEfam) are short and nonautonomous. Close inspection of the elements revealed that these two families were previously mis-categorized and, unlike other known TEs, insert specifically at dinucleotide “AT”. These two families were therefore designated as ATon-I and ATon-II. ATon-I has a total copy number of 294, among which three elements have more than 10 identical copies (146, 61 and 17). ATon-II has a total copy number of 317, among which three elements have more than 10 identical copies (84, 15 and 12). Genome wide searches revealed additional 24 ATon families in A. aegypti genome with nearly 6500 copies in total. Transposon display analysis of ATon-1 family using different A. aegypti strains suggests that the elements are similarly abundant in the tested mosquito strains.


ATons are novel mobile genetic elements bearing terminal inverted repeats and insert specifically at dinucleotide “AT”. Five ATon families contain elements existing at more than 10 identical copies, suggesting very recent or current transposition activity. A total of 24 new TE families with nearly 6000 copies were identified in this study.

Transposable elements; Helitron; Terminal inverted repeats (TIRs); Aedes aegypti; Miniature inverted repeat transposable elements (MITEs)