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Genes Chromosomes Cancer. 2001 Jan;30(1):64-71.

Transcriptional activation of short interspersed elements by DNA-damaging agents.

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Department of Medicine, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA.


Short interspersed elements (SINEs), typified by the human Alu repeat, are RNA polymerase III (pol III)-transcribed sequences that replicate within the genome through an RNA intermediate. Replication of SINEs has been extensive in mammalian evolution: an estimated 5% of the human genome consists of Alu repeats. The mechanisms regulating transcription, reverse transcription, and reinsertion of SINE elements in genomic DNA are poorly understood. Here we report that expression of murine SINE transcripts of both the B1 and B2 classes is strongly upregulated after prolonged exposure to cisplatin, etoposide, or gamma radiation. A similar induction of Alu transcripts in human cells occurs under these conditions. This induction is not due to a general upregulation of pol III activity in either species. Genotoxic treatment of murine cells containing an exogenous human Alu element induced Alu transcription. Concomitant with the increased expression of SINEs, an increase in cellular reverse transcriptase was observed after exposure to these same DNA-damaging agents. These findings suggest that genomic damage may be an important activator of SINEs, and that SINE mobility may contribute to secondary malignancy after exposure to DNA-damaging chemotherapy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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