Transposable elements have been discovered in animals, plants, fungi, and protozoans which contain open reading frames similar to the gag and pol genes of retroviruses and retrotransposons but which lack long terminal repeats (LTRs). Recent experiments have shown that these non-LTR elements [also called poly(A) type and LINE-like elements] encode functional reverse transcriptase and replicate via an RNA intermediate. Based on phylogenetic analysis of their encoded reverse transcriptase sequences, the non-LTR retrotransposons are the likely progenitors of retroviruses and LTR retrotransposons. Because retroviruses and LTR retrotransposons depend upon their LTRs for key steps in both transcription and integration, the mechanisms utilized by the non-LTR retrotransposons must be fundamentally different. Internal promoter sequences have been found in several non-LTR elements that initiate transcription upstream at the first nucleotide. Current models for retrotransposition of non-LTR elements propose that the 3' ends of staggered nicks at the chromosomal insertion site serve as primers for first- and second-staggered nicks at the chromosomal insertion site serve as primers for first- and second-strand synthesis from the RNA template. These models suggest that the enzymatic machinery of non-LTR elements is likely to be responsible for the integration of SINEs and processed pseudogenes.