Mobile genetic elements (e.g., transposable elements and viruses) display significant diversity with various life cycles, but how novel elements emerge remains obscure. Here, we report a giant (180-kb long) transposon, Teratorn, originally identified in the genome of medaka, Oryzias latipes. Teratorn belongs to the piggyBac superfamily and retains the transposition activity. Remarkably, Teratorn is largely derived from a herpesvirus of the Alloherpesviridae family that could infect fish and amphibians. Genomic survey of Teratorn-like elements reveals that some of them exist as a fused form between piggyBac transposon and herpesvirus genome in teleosts, implying the generality of transposon-herpesvirus fusion. We propose that Teratorn was created by a unique fusion of DNA transposon and herpesvirus, leading to life cycle shift. Our study supports the idea that recombination is the key event in generation of novel mobile genetic elements. Teratorn is a large mobile genetic element originally identified in the small teleost fish medaka. Here, the authors show that Teratorn is derived from the fusion of a piggyBac superfamily DNA transposon and an alloherpesvirus and that it is widely found across teleost fish.
Journal: Nature communications