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Cell. 2010 Jun 11;141(6):956-69. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2010.04.042.

LINE-1 activity in facultative heterochromatin formation during X chromosome inactivation.

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Institut Curie, Paris F-75248, France.


During X chromosome inactivation (XCI), Xist RNA coats and silences one of the two X chromosomes in female cells. Little is known about how XCI spreads across the chromosome, although LINE-1 elements have been proposed to play a role. Here we show that LINEs participate in creating a silent nuclear compartment into which genes become recruited. A subset of young LINE-1 elements, however, is expressed during XCI, rather than being silenced. We demonstrate that such LINE expression requires the specific heterochromatic state induced by Xist. These LINEs often lie within escape-prone regions of the X chromosome, but close to genes that are subject to XCI, and are associated with putative endo-siRNAs. LINEs may thus facilitate XCI at different levels, with silent LINEs participating in assembly of a heterochromatic nuclear compartment induced by Xist, and active LINEs participating in local propagation of XCI into regions that would otherwise be prone to escape.

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