L1 retrotransposons am autonomous retroelements that are active in the human and mouse genomes. Previously, we developed a cultured cell assay that uses a neomycin phosphotransferase (neo) retrotransposition cassette to determine relative retrotransposition frequencies among various L1 elements. Here, we describe a new retrotransposition assay that uses an enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) retrotransposition cassette to determine retrotransposition kinetics in cultured cells. We show that retrotransposition is not detected in cultured cells during the first 48 h post-transfection, but then proceeds at a continuous high rate for at least 16 days. We also determine the relative retrotransposition Fates of two similar human L1 retrotransposons, L1(RP) and L1.3. L1(RP) retrotransposed in the EGFP assay at a rate.of ~0.5% of transfected cells/day, ~3-fold higher than the rate measured for L1.3. We conclude that the new assay detects near real time retrotransposition in a single cell and is sufficiently sensitive to differentiate retrotransposition rates among similar L1 elements. The EGFP assay exhibits improved speed and accuracy compared to the previous assay when used to determine relative retrotransposition frequencies. Furthermore, the EGFP cassette has an expanded range of experimental applications.
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