Molecular Biology

Retrotransposons acting as lightning rods

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Science  16 Feb 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6377, pp. 757-758
DOI: 10.1126/science.359.6377.757-g

Long interspersed nuclear elements–1 (L1s) are abundant retrotransposons in the human genome. L1s can duplicate and jump in the genomes of neural progenitor cells in a process called retrotransposition. High levels of retrotransposition are associated with neuronal diversity and pathology. Jacob-Hirsch et al. mapped genome-wide retrotranspositions in human brain samples. The majority of L1 insertions in brains of normal donors occur in preexisting L1 elements that serve as “lightning rods” to guide safe landings of potentially harmful retrotranspositions. However, in brains of patients with neurodevelopmental disorders, enhanced transpositions can occur in genes associated with neurologic and psychiatric disorders, increasing the risk of damaging insertions.

Cell Res. 10.1038/cr.2018.8 (2018).

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