[Frontiers in Bioscience 17, 1329-1344, January 1, 2012]

Expressing genes do not forget their LINEs: transposable elements and gene expression

Kristine J. Kines1, Victoria P. Belancio1

1Department of Structural and Cellular Biology, Tulane University School of Medicine, Tulane University Cancer Center and Tulane Center for Aging


1. Abstract
2. Introduction
3. Insertional mutagenesis
4. Postinsertional interference
4.1. LINE-1 elements
4.2. Alu elements
4.3. SVA elements
4.4. HERVs
4.5. DNA transposons
5. Perspective
6. Acknowledgments
7. References


Historically the accumulated mass of mammalian transposable elements (TEs), particularly those located within gene boundaries, was viewed as a genetic burden potentially detrimental to the genomic landscape. This notion has been strengthened by the discovery that transposable sequences can alter the architecture of the transcriptome, not only through insertion, but also long after the integration process is completed. Insertions previously considered harmless are now known to impact the expression of host genes via modification of the transcript quality or quantity, transcriptional interference, or by the control of pathways that affect the mRNA life-cycle. Conversely, several examples of the evolutionary advantageous impact of TEs on the host gene structure that diversified the cellular transcriptome are reported. TE-induced changes in gene expression can be tissue- or disease-specific, raising the possibility that the impact of TE sequences may vary during development, among normal cell types, and between normal and disease-affected tissues. The understanding of the rules and abundance of TE-interference with gene expression is in its infancy, and its contribution to human disease and/or evolution remains largely unexplored.