Retrotransposons and the evolution of mammalian gene expression

Genetica. 1992;86(1-3):191-201. doi: 10.1007/BF00133720.


Transposable elements, and retroviral-like elements in particular, are a rich potential source of genetic variation within a host's genome. Many mutations of endogenous genes in phylogenetically diverse organisms are due to insertion of elements that affect gene expression by altering the normal pattern of regulation. While few such associations are known to have been maintained over time, two recently elucidated examples suggest transposable elements may have a significant impact in evolution of gene expression. The first example, concerning the mouse sex-limited protein (Slp), clearly establishes that ancient retroviral enhancer sequences now confer hormonal dependence on the adjacent gene. The second example shows that within the human amylase gene family, salivary specific expression has arisen due to inserted sequences, deriving perhaps from a conjunction of two retrotransposable elements.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amylases / genetics
  • Androgens / physiology
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Blood Proteins / genetics
  • Complement C4
  • DNA Transposable Elements*
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Enhancer Elements, Genetic
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes / genetics
  • Mammals / genetics*
  • Mice / genetics
  • Mutagenesis, Insertional
  • Organ Specificity
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid
  • Retroviridae / genetics*


  • Androgens
  • Blood Proteins
  • C4a protein, mouse
  • Complement C4
  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Isoenzymes
  • Amylases