mRNA retroposition in human cells: processed pseudogene formation

EMBO J. 1995 Dec 15;14(24):6333-8.


Using a sensitive assay for detection of reverse transcription events, we demonstrate that human HeLa cells can 'retropose', i.e. reverse transcribe and integrate, the mRNA of a naive reporter gene, at a low but detectable frequency. Furthermore, we show that the retroposed copies have all the hallmarks of the processed pseudogenes naturally found in the mammalian genome: they lack intron and 5' promoter sequence, they have acquired a 3' poly(A) tail, and they are flanked by short repeats (< 15 bp) of target DNA sequence. These results demonstrate that human cells possess an endogenous reverse transcription activity, which is not restricted to transcripts of transposable elements, and which is likely to be involved in the formation, still ongoing, of a large fraction of the eukaryotic genome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • DNA Primers / genetics
  • Genes, Reporter
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Pseudogenes*
  • RNA Processing, Post-Transcriptional
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism*
  • Retroelements
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • DNA Primers
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Retroelements