New insights into the functional role of retrotransposon dynamics in mammalian somatic cells

by Mangiavacchi A, Liu P, Della Valle F, Orlando V.
Year: 2021 DOI: 10.1007/s00018-021-03851-5

Extra Information

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2021 Jul;78(13):5245-5256. doi: 10.1007/s00018-021-03851-5. Epub 2021 May 14.PMID: 33990851


Retrotransposons are genetic elements present across all eukaryotic genomes. While their role in evolution is considered as a potentially beneficial natural source of genetic variation, their activity is classically considered detrimental due to their potentially harmful effects on genome stability. However, studies are increasingly shedding light on the regulatory function and beneficial role of somatic retroelement reactivation in non-pathological contexts. Here, we review recent findings unveiling the regulatory potential of retrotransposons, including their role in noncoding RNA transcription, as modulators of mammalian transcriptional and epigenome landscapes. We also discuss technical challenges in deciphering the multifaceted activity of retrotransposable elements, highlighting an unforeseen central role of this neglected portion of the genome both in early development and in adult life.