Somatic LINE-1 retrotransposition in cortical neurons and non-brain tissues of Rett patients and healthy individuals

by Boxun Zhao, Qixi Wu, Adam Yongxin Ye, Jing Guo, Xianing Zheng, Xiaoxu Yang, Linlin Yan, Qing-Rong Liu, Thomas M. Hyde, Liping Wei, August Yue Huang

Mounting evidence supports that LINE-1 (L1) retrotransposition can occur postzygotically in healthy and diseased human tissues, contributing to genomic mosaicism in the brain and other somatic tissues of an individual. However, the genomic distribution of somatic human-specific LINE-1 (L1Hs) insertions and their potential impact on carrier cells remain unclear. Here, using a PCR-based targeted bulk sequencing approach, we profiled 9,181 somatic insertions from 20 postmortem tissues from five Rett patients and their matched healthy controls. We identified and validated somatic L1Hs insertions in both cortical neurons and non-brain tissues. In Rett patients, somatic insertions were significantly depleted in exons—mainly contributed by long genes—than healthy controls, implying that cells carrying MECP2 mutations might be defenseless against a second exonic L1Hs insertion. We observed a significant increase of somatic L1Hs insertions in the brain compared with non-brain tissues from the same individual. Compared to germline insertions, somatic insertions were less sense-depleted to transcripts, indicating that they underwent weaker selective pressure on the orientation of insertion. Our observations demonstrate that somatic L1Hs insertions contribute to genomic diversity and MeCP2 dysfunction alters their genomic patterns in Rett patients.

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