Long interspersed nuclear elements (LINEs or L1s) comprise approximately 17% of human DNA; however, only about 60 of the approximately 400,000 L1s are mobile. Using a retrotransposition assay in cultured human cells, we demonstrate that L1-encoded proteins predominantly mobilize the RNA that encodes them. At much lower levels, L1-encoded proteins can act in trans to promote retrotransposition of mutant L1s and other cellular mRNAs, creating processed pseudogenes. Mutant L1 RNAs are mobilized at 0.2 to 0.9% of the retrotransposition frequency of wild-type L1s, whereas cellular RNAs are mobilized at much lower frequencies (ca. 0.01 to 0.05% of wild-type levels). Thus, we conclude that L1-encoded proteins demonstrate a profound cis preference for their encoding RNA. This mechanism could enable L1 to remain retrotransposition competent in the presence of the overwhelming number of nonfunctional L1s present in human DNA.