Recently integrated human Alu repeats: finding needles in the haystack

Genetica. 1999;107(1-3):149-61.


Alu elements undergo amplification through retroposition and integration into new locations throughout primate genomes. Over 500,000 Alu elements reside in the human genome, making the identification of newly inserted Alu repeats the genomic equivalent of finding needles in the haystack. Here, we present two complementary methods for rapid detection of newly integrated Alu elements. In the first approach we employ computational biology to mine the human genomic DNA sequence databases in order to identify recently integrated Alu elements. The second method is based on an anchor-PCR technique which we term Allele-Specific Alu PCR (ASAP). In this approach, Alu elements are selectively amplified from anchored DNA generating a display or 'fingerprint' of recently integrated Alu elements. Alu insertion polymorphisms are then detected by comparison of the DNA fingerprints generated from different samples. Here, we explore the utility of these methods by applying them to the identification of members of the smallest previously identified subfamily of Alu repeats in the human genome termed Ya8. This subfamily of Alu repeats is composed of about 50 elements within the human genome. Approximately 50% of the Ya8 Alu family members have inserted in the human genome so recently that they are polymorphic, making them useful markers for the study of human evolution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Line
  • DNA
  • DNA Fingerprinting
  • DNA Primers
  • Gorilla gorilla
  • Humans
  • Phylogeny
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid*
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid


  • DNA Primers
  • DNA