Generalized nuclear localization of retroelement transcripts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: LINE-1s, Alus and SVAs are the only retrotransposition competent elements in humans. Their mobilization followed by insertional mutagenesis is often linked to disease. Apart from these rare integration events, accumulation of retrotransposition intermediates in the cytoplasm is potentially pathogenic due to induction of inflammatory response pathways. Although the retrotransposition of LINE-1 and Alu retroelements has been studied in considerable detail, there are mixed observations about the localization of their RNAs. Results: We undertook a comprehensive and unbiased approach to analyze retroelement RNA localization using common cell lines and publicly available datasets containing RNA-sequencing data from subcellular fractions. Using our customized analytic pipeline, we compared localization patterns of RNAs transcribed from retroelements and single-copy protein coding genes. Our results demonstrate a generalized characteristic pattern of retroelement RNA nuclear localization that is conserved across retroelement classes as well as evolutionarily young and ancient elements. Preferential nuclear enrichment of retroelement transcripts was consistently observed in cell lines, in vivo and across species. Moreover, retroelement RNA localization patterns were dynamic and subject to change during development, as seen in zebrafish embryos. Conclusion: The pronounced nuclear localization of transcripts arising from ancient as well as de novo transcribed retroelements suggests that these transcripts are retained in the nucleus as opposed to being re-imported to the nucleus or degraded in the cytoplasm. This raises the possibility that there is adaptive value associated with this localization pattern to the host, the retroelements or possibly both.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number30
JournalMobile DNA
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Development
  • LINE-1
  • Nuclear localization
  • Retroelements
  • Retrotransposition
  • RNA
  • RNA-sequencing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology


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