In this paper we report on the isolation and characterization, for the first time, of a complete 6511 bp retrotransposon of sunflower. Considering its protein domain order and sequence similarity to other copia elements of dicotyledons, this retrotransposon was assigned to the copia retrotransposon superfamily and named HACRE1 (Helianthus annuus copia-like retroelement 1). HACRE1 carries 5' and 3' long terminal repeats (LTRs) flanking an internal region of 4661 bp. The LTRs are identical in their sequence except for two deletions of 7 and 5 nucleotides in the 5' LTR. Based on the sequence identity of the LTRs, HACRE1 was estimated to have inserted within the last approximately 84 000 years. The isolated sequence contains a complete open reading frame with only one complete reading frame. The absence of nonsense mutations agrees with the very high sequence identity between LTRs, confirming that HACRE1 insertion is recent. The haploid genome of sunflower (inbred line HCM) contains about 160 copies of HACRE1. This retrotransposon is expressed in leaflets from 7-day-old plantlets under different light conditions, probably in relation to the occurrence of many putative light-related regulatory cis-elements in the LTRs. However, sequenced cDNAs show less variability than HACRE1 genomic sequences, indicating that only a subset of this family is expressed under these conditions.