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Gene. 2007 Apr 1;390(1-2):190-8. Epub 2006 Sep 12.

Characterization of pre-insertion loci of de novo L1 insertions.

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  • 1Tulane Cancer Center and Department of Epidemiology, Tulane University Health Sciences Center SL-66, 1430 Tulane Ave., New Orleans, LA 70112, United States.


The human Long Interspersed Element-1 (LINE-1) and the Short Interspersed Element (SINE) Alu comprise 28% of the human genome. They share the same L1-encoded endonuclease for insertion, which recognizes an A+T-rich sequence. Under a simple model of insertion distribution, this nucleotide preference would lead to the prediction that the populations of both elements would be biased towards A+T-rich regions. Genomic L1 elements do show an A+T-rich bias. In contrast, Alu is biased towards G+C-rich regions when compared to the genome average. Several analyses have demonstrated that relatively recent insertions of both elements show less G+C content bias relative to older elements. We have analyzed the repetitive element and G+C composition of more than 100 pre-insertion loci derived from de novo L1 insertions in cultured human cancer cells, which should represent an evolutionarily unbiased set of insertions. An A+T-rich bias is observed in the 50 bp flanking the endonuclease target site, consistent with the known target site for the L1 endonuclease. The L1, Alu, and G+C content of 20 kb of the de novo pre-insertion loci shows a different set of biases than that observed for fixed L1s in the human genome. In contrast to the insertion sites of genomic L1s, the de novo L1 pre-insertion loci are relatively L1-poor, Alu-rich and G+C neutral. Finally, a statistically significant cluster of de novo L1 insertions was localized in the vicinity of the c-myc gene. These results suggest that the initial insertion preference of L1, while A+T-rich in the initial vicinity of the break site, can be influenced by the broader content of the flanking genomic region and have implications for understanding the dynamics of L1 and Alu distributions in the human genome.

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