Nucleic acids research

A comprehensive approach to expression of L1 loci.

PMID 27899577


L1 elements represent the only currently active, autonomous retrotransposon in the human genome, and they make major contributions to human genetic instability. The vast majority of the 500 000 L1 elements in the genome are defective, and only a relatively few can contribute to the retrotransposition process. However, there is currently no comprehensive approach to identify the specific loci that are actively transcribed separate from the excess of L1-related sequences that are co-transcribed within genes. We have developed RNA-Seq procedures, as well as a 1200 bp 5΄ RACE product coupled with PACBio sequencing that can identify the specific L1 loci that contribute most of the L1-related RNA reads. At least 99% of L1-related sequences found in RNA do not arise from the L1 promoter, instead representing pieces of L1 incorporated in other cellular RNAs. In any given cell type a relatively few active L1 loci contribute to the 'authentic' L1 transcripts that arise from the L1 promoter, with significantly different loci seen expressed in different tissues.