Comprehensive scanning mutagenesis of human retrotransposon LINE-1 identifies motifs essential for function

Emily M. Adney, Matthias T. Ochmann, Srinjoy Sil, David M. Truong, Paolo Mita, Xuya Wang, David J. Kahler, David Fenyö, Liam J. Holt, Jef D. Boeke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Long Interspersed Nuclear Element-1 (LINE-1, L1) is the only autonomous active transposable element in the human genome. The L1-encoded proteins ORF1p and ORF2p enable the element to jump from one locus to another via a “copy-and-paste” mechanism. ORF1p is an RNA-binding protein, and ORF2p has endonuclease and reverse transcriptase activities. The huge number of truncated L1 remnants in the human genome suggests that the host has likely evolved mechanisms to prevent full L1 replication, and thereby decrease the proliferation of active elements and reduce the mutagenic potential of L1. In turn, L1 appears to have a minimized length to increase the probability of successful full-length replication. This streamlining would be expected to lead to high information density. Here, we describe the construction and initial characterization of a library of 538 consecutive trialanine substitutions that scan along ORF1p and ORF2p to identify functionally important regions. In accordance with the streamlining hypothesis, retrotransposition was overall very sensitive to mutations in ORF1p and ORF2p; only 16% of trialanine mutants retained near-wild-type (WT) activity. All ORF1p mutants formed near-WT levels of mRNA transcripts and 75% formed near-WT levels of protein. Two ORF1p mutants presented a unique nucleolar-relocalization phenotype. Regions of ORF2p that are sensitive to mutagenesis but lack phylogenetic conservation were also identified. We provide comprehensive information on the regions most critical to retrotransposition. This resource will guide future studies of intermolecular interactions that form with RNA, proteins, and target DNA throughout the L1 life cycle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1401-1414
Number of pages14
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2019


  • L1
  • LINE-1
  • Retrotransposon
  • Scanning mutagenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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