LINE-1 retrotransposons are sequences capable of copying themselves to new genomic loci via an RNA intermediate. New studies implicate LINE-1 in a range of diseases, especially in the context of aging, but without an accurate understanding of where and when LINE-1 is expressed, a full accounting of its role in health and disease is not possible. We therefore developed a method - 5′ scL1seq - that makes use of a widely available library preparation method (10x Genomics 5′ single cell RNA-seq) to measure LINE-1 expression in tens of thousands of single cells. We recapitulated the known pattern of LINE-1 expression in tumors - present in cancer cells, absent from immune cells - and identified hitherto undescribed LINE-1 expression in human epithelial cells and mouse hippocampal neurons. In both cases, we saw a modest increase with age, supporting recent research connecting LINE-1 to age related diseases.
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