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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Dec 20;108(51):20351-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1103665108. Epub 2011 Jul 25.

Access to DNA establishes a secondary target site bias for the yeast retrotransposon Ty5.

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  • 1Department of Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development, and Center for Genome Engineering, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.


Integration sites for many retrotransposons and retroviruses are determined by interactions between retroelement-encoded integrases and specific DNA-bound proteins. The Saccharomyces retrotransposon Ty5 preferentially integrates into heterochromatin because of interactions between Ty5 integrase and the heterochromatin protein silent information regulator 4. We mapped over 14,000 Ty5 insertions onto the S. cerevisiae genome, 76% of which occurred in heterochromatin, which is consistent with the known target site bias of Ty5. Using logistic regression, associations were assessed between Ty5 insertions and various chromosomal features such as genome-wide distributions of nucleosomes and histone modifications. Sites of Ty5 insertion, regardless of whether they occurred in heterochromatin or euchromatin, were strongly associated with DNase hypersensitive, nucleosome-free regions flanking genes. Our data support a model wherein silent information regulator 4 tethers the Ty5 integration machinery to domains of heterochromatin, and then, specific target sites are selected based on DNA access, resulting in a secondary target site bias. For insertions in euchromatin, DNA access is the primary determinant of target site choice. One consequence of the secondary target site bias of Ty5 is that insertions in coding sequences occur infrequently, which may preserve genome integrity.

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