Analysis of transposon interruptions suggests selection for L1 elements on the X chromosome

Gyorgy Abrusan, Joti Giordano, Peter E Warburton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It has been hypothesised that the massive accumulation of L1 transposable elements on the X chromosome is due to their function in X inactivation, and that the accumulation of Alu elements near genes is adaptive. We tested the possible selective advantage of these two transposable element (TE) families with a novel method, interruption analysis. In mammalian genomes, a large number of TEs interrupt other TEs due to the high overall abundance and age of repeats, and these interruptions can be used to test whether TEs are selectively neutral. Interruptions of TEs, which are beneficial for the host, are expected to be deleterious and underrepresented compared with neutral ones. We found that L1 elements in the regions of the X chromosome that contain the majority of the inactivated genes are significantly less frequently interrupted than on the autosomes, while L1s near genes that escape inactivation are interrupted with higher frequency, supporting the hypothesis that L1s on the X chromosome play a role in its inactivation. In addition, we show that TEs are less frequently interrupted in introns than in intergenic regions, probably due to selection against the expansion of introns, but the insertion pattern of Alus is comparable to other repeats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e1000172
JournalPLoS Genetics
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2008


  • Alu Elements
  • Animals
  • Chromosomes, Human, X
  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Gene Silencing
  • Humans
  • Introns
  • Long Interspersed Nucleotide Elements
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Opossums
  • Selection, Genetic
  • X Chromosome

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