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Gene. 2009 Dec 15;448(2):233-41. doi: 10.1016/j.gene.2009.05.014. Epub 2009 Jun 6.

Internal priming: an opportunistic pathway for L1 and Alu retrotransposition in hominins.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Biological Computation and Visualization Center, Louisiana State University, 202 Life Sciences Building, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA.


Retrotransposons, specifically Alu and L1 elements, have been especially successful in their expansion throughout primate genomes. While most of these elements integrate through an endonuclease-mediated process termed target primed reverse transcription, a minority integrate using alternative methods. Here we present evidence for one such mechanism, which we term internal priming and demonstrate that loci integrating through this mechanism are qualitatively different from "classical" insertions. Previous examples of this mechanism are limited to cell culture assays, which show that reverse transcription can initiate upstream of the 3' poly-A tail during retrotransposon integration. To detect whether this mechanism occurs in vivo as well as in cell culture, we have analyzed the human genome for internal priming events using recently integrated L1 and Alu elements. Our examination of the human genome resulted in the recovery of twenty events involving internal priming insertions, which are structurally distinct from both classical TPRT-mediated insertions and non-classical insertions. We suggest two possible mechanisms by which these internal priming loci are created and provide evidence supporting a role in staggered DNA double-strand break repair. Also, we demonstrate that the internal priming process is associated with inter-chromosomal duplications and the insertion of filler DNA.

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