To study integration of the human LINE-1 retrotransposon (L1) in vivo, we developed a transgenic mouse model of L1 retrotransposition that displays de novo somatic L1 insertions at a high frequency, occasionally several insertions per mouse. We mapped 3′ integration sites of 51 insertions by Thermal Asymmetric Interlaced PCR (TAIL-PCR). Analysis of integration locations revealed a broad genomic distribution with a modest preference for intergenic regions. We characterized the complete structures of 33 de novo retrotransposition events. Our results highlight the large number of highly truncated L1s, as over 52% (27/51) of total integrants were <1/3 the length of a full-length element. New integrants carry all structural characteristics typical of genomic L1s, including a number with inversions, deletions, and 5′-end microhomologies to the target DNA sequence. Notably, at least 13% (7/51) of all insertions contain a short stretch of extra nucleotides at their 5′ end, which we postulate result from template-jumping by the L1-encoded reverse transcriptase. We propose a unified model of L1 integration that explains all of the characteristic features of L1 retrotransposition, such as 5′ truncations, inversions, extra nucleotide additions, and 5′ boundary and inversion point microhomologies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas