Nature 451, 431-436 (24 January 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature06499; Received 27 August 2007; Accepted 22 November 2007; Published online 19 December 2007

Host genome surveillance for retrotransposons by transposon-derived proteins

Hugh P. Cam1, Ken-ichi Noma1, Hirotaka Ebina2, Henry L. Levin2 & Shiv I. S. Grewal1

  1. Laboratory of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, National Cancer Institute,
  2. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA

Correspondence to: Shiv I. S. Grewal1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to S.I.S.G. (Email:


Transposable elements and their remnants constitute a substantial fraction of eukaryotic genomes. Host genomes have evolved defence mechanisms, including chromatin modifications and RNA interference, to regulate transposable elements. Here we describe a genome surveillance mechanism for retrotransposons by transposase-derived centromeric protein CENP-B homologues of the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe. CENP-B homologues of S. pombe localize at and recruit histone deacetylases to silence Tf2 retrotransposons. CENP-Bs also repress solo long terminal repeats (LTRs) and LTR-associated genes. Tf2 elements are clustered into 'Tf' bodies, the organization of which depends on CENP-Bs that display discrete nuclear structures. Furthermore, CENP-Bs prevent an 'extinct' Tf1 retrotransposon from re-entering the host genome by blocking its recombination with extant Tf2, and silence and immobilize a Tf1 integrant that becomes sequestered into Tf bodies. Our results reveal a probable ancient retrotransposon surveillance pathway important for host genome integrity, and highlight potential conflicts between DNA transposons and retrotransposons, major transposable elements believed to have greatly moulded the evolution of genomes.


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