Human L1 transposition dynamics unraveled with functional data analysis

Di Chen, Marzia A. Cremona, Zongtai Qi, Robi D. Mitra, Francesca Chiaromonte, Kateryna D. Makova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Long INterspersed Elements-1 (L1s) constitute >17% of the human genome and still actively transpose in it. Characterizing L1 transposition across the genome is critical for understanding genome evolution and somatic mutations. However, to date, L1 insertion and fixation patterns have not been studied comprehensively. To fill this gap, we investigated three genome-wide data sets of L1s that integrated at different evolutionary times: 17,037 de novo L1s (from an L1 insertion cell-line experiment conducted in-house), and 1,212 polymorphic and 1,205 human-specific L1s (from public databases). We characterized 49 genomic features—proxying chromatin accessibility, transcriptional activity, replication, recombination, etc.—in the 650 kb flanks of these elements. These features were contrasted between the three L1 data sets and L1-free regions using state-of-the-art Functional Data Analysis statistical methods, which treat high-resolution data as mathematical functions. Our results indicate that de novo, polymorphic, and human-specific L1s are surrounded by different genomic features acting at specific locations and scales. This led to an integrative model of L1 transposition, according to which L1s preferentially integrate into open-chromatin regions enriched in non-B DNA motifs, whereas they are fixed in regions largely free of purifying selection—depleted of genes and noncoding most conserved elements. Intriguingly, our results suggest that L1 insertions modify local genomic landscape by extending CpG methylation and increasing mononucleotide microsatellite density. Altogether, our findings substantially facilitate understanding of L1 integration and fixation preferences, pave the way for uncovering their role in aging and cancer, and inform their use as mutagenesis tools in genetic studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3576-3600
Number of pages25
JournalMolecular biology and evolution
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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