L1 retrotransposition occurs mainly in embryogenesis and creates somatic mosaicism

Hiroki Kano, Irene Godoy, Christine Courtney, Melissa R. Vetter, George L. Gerton, Eric M. Ostertag, Haig H. Kazazian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

259 Scopus citations


Long Interspersed Element 1 (L1) is a retrotransposon that comprises ∼17% of the human genome. Despite its abundance in mammalian genomes, relatively little is understood about L1 retrotransposition in vivo. To study the timing and tissue specificity of retrotransposition, we created transgenic mouse and rat models containing human or mouse L1 elements controlled by their endogenous promoters. Here, we demonstrate abundant L1 RNA in both germ cells and embryos. However, the integration events usually occur in embryogenesis rather than in germ cells and are not heritable. We further demonstrate L1 RNA in preimplantation embryos lacking the L1 transgene and L1 somatic retrotransposition events in blastocysts and adults lacking the transgene. Together, these data indicate that L1 RNA transcribed in male or female germ cells can be carried over through fertilization and integrate during embryogenesis, an interesting example of heritability of RNA independent of its encoding DNA. Thus, L1 creates somatic mosaicism during mammalian development, suggesting a role for L1 in carcinogenesis and other disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1303-1312
Number of pages10
JournalGenes and Development
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Line-1
  • RNA carryover
  • Retrotransposon
  • Somatic mosaicism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Developmental Biology


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