An analysis of replacement and synonymous changes in the rodent L1 repeat family

S. C. Hardies, S. L. Martin, C. F. Voliva, C. A. Hutchison, M. H. Edgell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


L1 is a family of long interspersed repetitive sequences in mammals that includes the BamHI family in rodents and the KpnI family in primates. Previous studies have shown that L1 repeats contain a long open reading frame and that the family evolves in concert. Working with 32 rodent elements for which DNA sequences is available, we used the distribution of replacement and synonymous changes to determine which L1 lineages had been expressing their reading frame. The evidence obtained is consistent with there having been a small number of L1 genes that have been expressing a functional protein. Much of the concerted evolution in L1 is accounted for by the tendency of these functioning L1 genes to continually create nonfunctional pseudogenes by reinsertion into the genome of sequences derived from their transcripts. The gain of new pseudogenes is balanced by the loss of old pseudogenes with a half-life of 2 Myr. Therefore, most of the observed L1 repeats are at a dead end with respect to either the expression of the L1 protein or the potential to elaborate further copies of themselves. However, the turnover of L1 pseudogenes is sufficient to constitute a vast flux of sequences into and then out of the flanking regions of all cellular genes. If the presence of flanking l1 pseudogenes affects the expression of other genes in even a subtle fashion, this process should represent a major source of genetic variation. A second level of concerted evolution occurs within the functional L1 sequences in a pattern that did not meet our expectations for selfish DNA. Also, in spite of the marked suppression of replacement relative to synonymous changes in functioning L1 genes, they evolve at an overall rate accelerated to the level of their own pseudogenes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-125
Number of pages17
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


Dive into the research topics of 'An analysis of replacement and synonymous changes in the rodent L1 repeat family'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this