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Nat Struct Mol Biol. 2015 Oct;22(10):824-31. doi: 10.1038/nsmb.3090. Epub 2015 Sep 14.

miR-128 represses L1 retrotransposition by binding directly to L1 RNA.

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Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Francisco J. Ayala School of Biological Sciences, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California, USA.
Regulus Therapeutics, San Diego, California, USA.


Long interspersed element 1 (LINE-1 or L1) retrotransposons compose 17% of the human genome. Active L1 elements are capable of replicative transposition (mobilization) and can act as drivers of genetic diversity. However, this mobilization is mutagenic and may be detrimental to the host, and therefore it is under strict control. Somatic cells usually silence L1 activity by DNA methylation of the L1 promoter. In hypomethylated cells, such as cancer cells and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), a window of opportunity for L1 reactivation emerges, and with it comes an increased risk of genomic instability and tumorigenesis. Here we show that miR-128 represses new retrotransposition events in human cancer cells and iPSCs by binding directly to L1 RNA. Thus, we have identified and characterized a new function of microRNAs: mediating genomic stability by suppressing the mobility of endogenous retrotransposons.

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