Transposable elements (TEs) are mobile DNA sequences that can insert themselves into various locations within the genome, causing mutations that may provide advantages or disadvantages to individuals and species. The insertion of TEs can result in genetic variation that may affect a wide range of human traits including genetic disorders. Understanding the role of TEs in human biology is crucial for both evolutionary and medical research. This review discusses the involvement of TEs in human traits and disease susceptibility, as well as methods for functional analysis of TEs.
Retrotransposons, which account for approximately 42% of the human genome, have been increasingly recognized as “non-self” pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) due to their virus-like sequences. In abnormal conditions such as cancer and viral infections, retrotransposons that are aberrantly expressed due to impaired epigenetic suppression display PAMPs, leading to their recognition by pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) of the innate immune system and triggering inflammation. This viral mimicry mechanism has been observed in various human diseases, including aging and autoimmune disorders. However, recent evidence suggests that retrotransposons possess highly regulated immune reactivity and play important roles in the development and function of the immune system. In this review, I discuss a wide range of retrotransposon-derived transcripts, their role as targets in immune recognition, and the diseases associated with retrotransposon activity. Furthermore, I explore the implications of chimeric transcripts formed between retrotransposons and known gene mRNAs, which have been previously underestimated, for the increase of immune-related gene isoforms and their influence on immune function. Retrotransposon-derived transcripts have profound and multifaceted effects on immune system function. The aim of this comprehensive review is to provide a better understanding of the complex relationship between retrotransposon transcripts and immune defense.
In the course of evolution, the most highly developed organ is likely the brain, which has become more complex over time and acquired diverse forms and functions in different species. In particular, mammals have developed complex and high-functioning brains, and it has been reported that several genes derived from retroviruses were involved in mammalian brain evolution, that is, generating the complexity of the nervous system. Especially, the sushi-ichi-related retrotransposon homolog (SIRH)/retrotransposon gag-like (RTL) genes have been suggested to play a role in the evolutionary processes shaping brain morphology and function in mammals. Genetic mutation and altered expression of genes are linked to neurological disorders, highlighting how the acquisition of virus-derived genes in mammals has both driven brain evolution and imposed a susceptibility to diseases. This review provides an overview of the functions, diversity, evolution and diseases associated with SIRH/RTL genes in the nervous system. The contribution of retroviruses to brain evolution is an important research topic in evolutionary biology and neuroscience, and further insights are expected to be gained through future studies.
Retrotransposons are transposable elements that are transposed via transcription and reverse transcription. Their copies have accumulated in the genome of mammals, occupying approximately 40% of mammalian genomic mass. These copies are often involved in numerous phenomena, such as chromatin spatial organization, gene expression, development and disease, and have been recognized as a driving force in evolution. Different organisms have gained specific retrotransposon subfamilies and retrotransposed copies, such as hundreds of Mus-specific subfamilies with diverse sequences and genomic locations. Despite this complexity, basic information is still necessary for present-day genomic and epigenomic studies. Herein, we describe the characteristics of each subfamily of Mus-specific retrotransposons in terms of sequence structure, phylogenetic relationships, evolutionary age, and preference for A or B compartments of chromatin.
We report the complete organellar genome sequences of an ultrasmall green alga, Medakamo hakoo strain M-hakoo 311, which has the smallest known nuclear genome in freshwater green algae. Medakamo hakoo has 90.8-kb chloroplast and 36.5-kb mitochondrial genomes containing 80 and 33 putative protein-coding genes, respectively. The mitochondrial genome is the smallest in the Trebouxiophyceae algae studied so far. The GC content of the nuclear genome is 73%, but those of chloroplast and mitochondrial genomes are 41% and 35%, respectively. Codon usages in the organellar genomes have a different tendency from that in the nuclear genome. The organellar genomes have unique characteristics, such as the biased encoding of mitochondrial genes on a single strand and the absence of operon structures in chloroplast ribosomal genes. Medakamo hakoo will be helpful for understanding the evolution of the organellar genome and the regulation of gene expression in chloroplasts and mitochondria.