Essential factors involved in the precise targeting and insertion of telomere-specific non-LTR retrotransposon, SART1Bm

Sci Rep. 2020 Jun 2;10(1):8963. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-65925-x.


Telomere length maintenance is essential for most eukaryotes to ensure genome stability and integrity. A non-long terminal repeat (LTR) retrotransposon, SART1Bm, targets telomeric repeats (TTAGG)n of the silkworm Bombyx mori and is presumably involved in telomere length maintenance. However, how many telomeric repeats are required for its retrotransposition and how reverse transcription is initiated at the target site are not well understood. Here, using an ex vivo and trans-in vivo recombinant baculovirus retrotransposition system, we demonstrated that SART1Bm requires at least three (TTAGG) telomeric repeats and a longer poly(A) tail for its accurate retrotransposition. We found that SART1Bm retrotransposed only in the third (TTAGG) tract of three repeats and that the A residue of the (TTAGG) unit was essential for its retrotransposition. Interestingly, SART1Bm also retrotransposed into telomeric repeats of other species, such as human (TTAGGG)n repeats, albeit with low retrotransposition efficiency. We further showed that the reverse transcription of SART1Bm occurred inaccurately at the internal site of the 3' untranslated region (UTR) when using a short poly(A) tail but at the accurate site when using a longer poly(A) tail. These findings promote our understanding of the general mechanisms of site-specific retrotransposition and aid the development of a site-specific gene knock-in tool.