Retrotransposons in pluripotent cells: Impact and new roles in cellular plasticity

Angela Macia, Eva Blanco-Jimenez, José L García-Pérez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Transposable Elements are pieces of DNA able to mobilize from one location to another within genomes. Although they constitute more than 50% of the human genome, they have been classified as selfish DNA, with the only mission to spread within genomes and generate more copies of themselves that will ensure their presence over generations. Despite their remarkable prevalence, only a minor group of transposable elements remain active in the human genome and can sporadically be associated with the generation of a genetic disorder due to their ongoing mobility. Most of the transposable elements identified in the human genome corresponded to fixed insertions that no longer move in genomes. As selfish DNA, transposable element insertions accumulate in cell types where genetic information can be passed to the next generation. Indeed, work from different laboratories has demonstrated that the main heritable load of TE accumulation in humans occurs during early embryogenesis. Thus, active transposable elements have a clear impact on our pluripotent genome. However, recent findings suggest that the main proportion of fixed non-mobile transposable elements might also have emerging roles in cellular plasticity. In this concise review, we provide an overview of the impact of currently active transposable elements in our pluripotent genome and further discuss new roles of transposable elements (active or not) in regulating pluripotency. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Stress as a fundamental theme in cell plasticity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-26
Number of pages10
JournalBBA - Bioenergetics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015


  • Animals
  • Cell Dedifferentiation
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genome, Human
  • Humans
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells
  • Retroelements


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