Endonuclease-independent LINE-1 retrotransposition at mammalian telomeres

Tammy A Morrish, José Luis Garcia-Perez, Thomas D Stamato, Guillermo E Taccioli, JoAnn Sekiguchi, John V Moran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Long interspersed element-1 (LINE-1 or L1) elements are abundant, non-long-terminal-repeat (non-LTR) retrotransposons that comprise approximately 17% of human DNA. The average human genome contains approximately 80-100 retrotransposition-competent L1s (ref. 2), and they mobilize by a process that uses both the L1 endonuclease and reverse transcriptase, termed target-site primed reverse transcription. We have previously reported an efficient, endonuclease-independent L1 retrotransposition pathway (EN(i)) in certain Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cell lines that are defective in the non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) pathway of DNA double-strand-break repair. Here we have characterized EN(i) retrotransposition events generated in V3 CHO cells, which are deficient in DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs) activity and have both dysfunctional telomeres and an NHEJ defect. Notably, approximately 30% of EN(i) retrotransposition events insert in an orientation-specific manner adjacent to a perfect telomere repeat (5'-TTAGGG-3'). Similar insertions were not detected among EN(i) retrotransposition events generated in controls or in XR-1 CHO cells deficient for XRCC4, an NHEJ factor that is required for DNA ligation but has no known function in telomere maintenance. Furthermore, transient expression of a dominant-negative allele of human TRF2 (also called TERF2) in XRCC4-deficient XR-1 cells, which disrupts telomere capping, enables telomere-associated EN(i) retrotransposition events. These data indicate that L1s containing a disabled endonuclease can use dysfunctional telomeres as an integration substrate. The findings highlight similarities between the mechanism of EN(i) retrotransposition and the action of telomerase, because both processes can use a 3' OH for priming reverse transcription at either internal DNA lesions or chromosome ends. Thus, we propose that EN(i) retrotransposition is an ancestral mechanism of RNA-mediated DNA repair associated with non-LTR retrotransposons that may have been used before the acquisition of an endonuclease domain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208-12
Number of pages5
Issue number7132
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2007


  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Line
  • Chromosomal Instability
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Endonucleases
  • Humans
  • Long Interspersed Nucleotide Elements
  • Mutagenesis, Insertional
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Retroelements
  • Telomere


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