RNA ligation precedes the retrotransposition of U6/LINE-1 chimeric RNA

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Oct 8;116(41):20612-20622. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1805404116. Epub 2019 Sep 23.


Long interspersed element-1 (LINE-1 or L1) amplifies via retrotransposition. Active L1s encode 2 proteins (ORF1p and ORF2p) that bind their encoding transcript to promote retrotransposition in cis The L1-encoded proteins also promote the retrotransposition of small-interspersed element RNAs, noncoding RNAs, and messenger RNAs in trans Some L1-mediated retrotransposition events consist of a copy of U6 RNA conjoined to a variably 5'-truncated L1, but how U6/L1 chimeras are formed requires elucidation. Here, we report the following: The RNA ligase RtcB can join U6 RNAs ending in a 2',3'-cyclic phosphate to L1 RNAs containing a 5'-OH in vitro; depletion of endogenous RtcB in HeLa cell extracts reduces U6/L1 RNA ligation efficiency; retrotransposition of U6/L1 RNAs leads to U6/L1 pseudogene formation; and a unique cohort of U6/L1 chimeric RNAs are present in multiple human cell lines. Thus, these data suggest that U6 small nuclear RNA (snRNA) and RtcB participate in the formation of chimeric RNAs and that retrotransposition of chimeric RNA contributes to interindividual genetic variation.

Keywords: LINE-1; RNA ligation; RtcB; U6 snRNA; retrotransposon.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Embryonic Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Long Interspersed Nucleotide Elements / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neural Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Pseudogenes
  • RNA / chemistry
  • RNA / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger / chemistry
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Small Nuclear / chemistry
  • RNA, Small Nuclear / genetics*
  • Retroelements / genetics*


  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Small Nuclear
  • Retroelements
  • U6 small nuclear RNA
  • RNA