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Somatic mosaicism in neuronal precursor cells mediated by L1 retrotransposition


Revealing the mechanisms for neuronal somatic diversification remains a central challenge for understanding individual differences in brain organization and function. Here we show that an engineered human LINE-1 (for long interspersed nuclear element-1; also known as L1) element can retrotranspose in neuronal precursors derived from rat hippocampus neural stem cells. The resulting retrotransposition events can alter the expression of neuronal genes, which, in turn, can influence neuronal cell fate in vitro. We further show that retrotransposition of a human L1 in transgenic mice results in neuronal somatic mosaicism. The molecular mechanism of action is probably mediated through Sox2, because a decrease in Sox2 expression during the early stages of neuronal differentiation is correlated with increases in both L1 transcription and retrotransposition. Our data therefore indicate that neuronal genomes might not be static, but some might be mosaic because of de novo L1 retrotransposition events.

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Figure 1: L1 expression correlates with decreased Sox2 expression in HCN cells.
Figure 2: NPCs can support L1 retrotransposition.
Figure 3: L1 retrotransposition events can modify neuronal gene expression.
Figure 4: An L1 retrotransposition event can drive neuronal maturation through Psd-93 overexpression.
Figure 5: L1 retrotransposition detection in the brains of transgenic mice.


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We thank M. L. Gage for editorial comments, H. Suh for Sox2-EGFP brain sections and embryo advice, P. Taupin for assistance during CCg experiments, and J. L. Garcia-Perez and R. Badge for critical comments on the manuscript. A.R.M. is a Pew Latin-America Fellow. V.T.C. was supported by grants from Lynn and Edward Streim and the Neuroplasticity of Aging Training Grant. J.V.M. was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the W. M. Keck Foundation, and F.H.G. was supported by the Lookout Fund, The Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, Max Planck Research Award Program, by the German Federal Ministry for Education, Science, Research and Technology and the National Institutes of Health: National Institute on Aging and National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke.Author Contributions A.R.M. is the leading author. He contributed to the concept, designed, performed the experiments and analysed the data, and wrote the manuscript. V.T.C. designed and performed the microarrays experiments. M.C.N.M. designed, performed and analysed the inverse PCR data and some tissue culture experiments and revised the manuscript. W.D. performed the transgenic experiment. J.V.M. contributed reagents, and performed data analyses and manuscript revision. F.H.G. is the senior author. He contributed to the concept, analysed the data, revised the manuscript and provided financial support.

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Correspondence to Fred H. Gage.

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Competing interests

Microarray data have been deposited in the GEO archive under accession number GSE2499, and the Cl22 L1 insertion sequence has been deposited in GenBank under accession number AY995186. Reprints and permissions information is available at The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Data

Structures of L1 derived retrotransposition events in single cell clones from rat neural progenitor cells transfected with the L1-EGFP reporter construct (Word; 188 KB). (DOC 184 kb)

Supplementary Figure Legends

Legends to accompany the below Supplementary Figures (DOC 26 kb)

Supplementary Methods

Detailed, additional methods information to accompany the main manuscript. (DOC 96 kb)

Supplementary Notes

Description of some neuronal genes targeted by L1 retrotransposition in neuronal precursor cells. (DOC 40 kb)

Supplementary Tables S1 and S2

These tables resume the cloning survival after CCg-treatment and the transcripts obtained from the CCg-array experiment, respectively. (DOC 26 kb)

Supplementary Video

This movie shows the neuronal differentiation of the Cl 22. The time lapse covers a period of 41h, during witch time the EGFP from the insertion site (Psd-93 gene) expression is turned on. (MOV 2418 kb)

Supplementary Figure S1

L1 transcripts are enriched in CCg-responsive cells. (JPG 116 kb)

Supplementary Figure S2

Luciferase controls for the L1 5'UTR promoter analyses. (JPG 62 kb)

Supplementary Figure S3

Adult NPCs derived from rat brain support L1 retrotransposition. FACS analysis. (JPG 95 kb)

Supplementary Figure S4

Chromatin modification is associated with L1 insertion silencing. (JPG 371 kb)

Supplementary Figure S5

Embryonic analysis of the L1-EGFP transgenic mice. Pregnant females were sacrificed at E10.5 and embryos were removed by micro-dissection. (JPG 312 kb)

Supplementary Figure S6

Detection of L1 retrotransposition in other tissues of the L1-EGFP transgenic mice. (JPG 254 kb)

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Muotri, A., Chu, V., Marchetto, M. et al. Somatic mosaicism in neuronal precursor cells mediated by L1 retrotransposition. Nature 435, 903–910 (2005).

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