Defending the genome from the enemy within: mechanisms of retrotransposon suppression in the mouse germline

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2014 May;71(9):1581-605. doi: 10.1007/s00018-013-1468-0. Epub 2013 Sep 18.


The viability of any species requires that the genome is kept stable as it is transmitted from generation to generation by the germ cells. One of the challenges to transgenerational genome stability is the potential mutagenic activity of transposable genetic elements, particularly retrotransposons. There are many different types of retrotransposon in mammalian genomes, and these target different points in germline development to amplify and integrate into new genomic locations. Germ cells, and their pluripotent developmental precursors, have evolved a variety of genome defence mechanisms that suppress retrotransposon activity and maintain genome stability across the generations. Here, we review recent advances in understanding how retrotransposon activity is suppressed in the mammalian germline, how genes involved in germline genome defence mechanisms are regulated, and the consequences of mutating these genome defence genes for the developing germline.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Methylation
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / cytology
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Genome*
  • Germ Cells / cytology
  • Germ Cells / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / metabolism
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism
  • Retroelements / genetics*


  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Retroelements