Human L1 retrotransposition: cis preference versus trans complementation

W. Wei, N. Gilbert, S. L. Ooi, J. F. Lawler, E. M. Ostertag, Haig Kazazian, J. D. Boeke, J. V. Moran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Long interspersed nuclear elements (LINEs or L1s) comprise approximately 17% of human DNA; however, only about 60 of the ∼400,000 L1s are mobile. Using a retrotransposition assay in cultured human cells, we demonstrate that L1-encoded proteins predominantly mobilize the RNA that encodes them. At much lower levels, L1-encoded proteins can act in trans to promote retrotransposition of mutant L1s and other cellular mRNAs, creating processed pseudogenes. Mutant L1 RNAs are mobilized at 0.2 to 0.9% of the retrotransposition frequency of wild-type L1s, whereas cellular RNAs are mobilized at much lower frequencies (ca. 0.01 to 0.05% of wild-type levels). Thus, we conclude that L1-encoded proteins demonstrate a profound cis preference for their encoding RNA. This mechanism could enable L1 to remain retrotransposition competent in the presence of the overwhelming number of nonfunctional L1s present in human DNA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1429-1439
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular and Cellular Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cell Biology

Cite this

Wei, W., Gilbert, N., Ooi, S. L., Lawler, J. F., Ostertag, E. M., Kazazian, H., Boeke, J. D., & Moran, J. V. (2001). Human L1 retrotransposition: cis preference versus trans complementation. Molecular and Cellular Biology, 21(4), 1429-1439.