Large-scale discovery of insertion hotspots and preferential integration sites of human transposed elements

Asaf Levy, Schraga Schwartz, Gil Ast*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Throughout evolution, eukaryotic genomes have been invaded by transposable elements (TEs). Little is known about the factors leading to genomic proliferation of TEs, their preferred integration sites and the molecular mechanisms underlying their insertion. We analyzed hundreds of thousands nested TEs in the human genome, i.e. insertions of TEs into existing ones. We first discovered that most TEs insert within specific 'hotspots' along the targeted TE. In particular, retrotransposed Alu elements contain a non-canonical single nucleotide hotspot for insertion of other Alu sequences. We next devised a method for identification of integration sequence motifs of inserted TEs that are conserved within the targeted TEs. This method revealed novel sequences motifs characterizing insertions of various important TE families: Alu, hAT, ERV1 and MaLR. Finally, we performed a global assessment to determine the extent to which young TEs tend to nest within older transposed elements and identified a 4-fold higher tendency of TEs to insert into existing TEs than to insert within non-TE intergenic regions. Our analysis demonstrates that TEs are highly biased to insert within certain TEs, in specific orientations and within specific targeted TE positions. TE nesting events also reveal new characteristics of the molecular mechanisms underlying transposition.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbergkp1134
Pages (from-to)1515-1530
Number of pages16
JournalNucleic Acids Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - 14 Dec 2009
Externally publishedYes


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