Background: Long interspersed elements-1 (LINE-1s or L1s) and Alu elements are most successful retrotransposons that have generated genetic diversity and genomic fluidity in the primate genome. They account for ~ 27.7% of the primate genome. Interestingly, a previous study has shown that the retrotransposition rate of Alu elements is nine times higher in baboons than in humans.
Objective: The expansion of Alu copies could be dependent on the activity of L1-encoded proteins. Thus, we aimed to investigate full-length baboon-specific L1s and characterize structurally and functionally intact baboon-specific L1s (ORF1p/ORF2p and ORF2p only) that could induce trans-mobilization of Alu elements in the baboon genome.
Results: A total of 673 baboon-specific L1 candidates (> 4 kb) were identified through the comparative genomic analysis. Applying the baboon-specific correction value obtained from the experimental validation, it demonstrated that approximately 446 baboon-specific L1s (> 4 kb) were present in the baboon reference genome (papAnu2). In addition, we observed phylogenetic relationship of the baboon-specific L1s through the neighbor-joining method and they diverged from the L1PA6 consensus sequence. Finally, we identified 36 full-length baboon-specific L1s that were intact both ORF1p and ORF2p.
Conclusion: The number of baboon-specific full-length L1s is fewer than the number of human-specific full-length L1s. Therefore, there is possibility that the "L1 master gene" or "L1 source gene" is more abundant in the baboon genome, or that in trans retrotransposition activity of baboon-specific L1s is relatively stronger than in the other genomes.
Keywords: Baboon; Baboon-specific; LINE-1; Transposable element.