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Transposable elements and their KZFP controllers are drivers of transcriptional innovation in the developing human brain

By Christopher J Playfoot, Julien Duc, Shaoline Sheppard, Sagane Dind, Alexandre Coudray, Evarist Planet, Didier Trono

Posted 14 Dec 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.12.14.422620

Transposable elements (TEs) constitute 50% of the human genome and many have been co-opted throughout human evolution due to gain of advantageous regulatory functions controlling gene expression networks. Several lines of evidence suggest these networks can be fine-tuned by the largest family of TE controllers, the KRAB-containing zinc finger proteins (KZFPs). One tissue permissive for TE transcriptional activation (termed transposcription) is the adult human brain, however comprehensive studies on the extent of this process and its potential contribution to human brain development are lacking. In order to elucidate the spatiotemporal transposcriptome of the developing human brain, we have analysed two independent RNA-seq datasets encompassing 16 distinct brain regions from eight weeks post-conception into adulthood. We reveal an anti-correlated, KZFP:TE transcriptional profile defining the late prenatal to early postnatal transition, and the spatiotemporal and cell type specific activation of TE-derived alternative promoters driving the expression of neurogenesis-associated genes. We also demonstrate experimentally that a co-opted antisense L2 element drives temporal protein re-localisation away from the endoplasmic reticulum, suggestive of novel TE dependent protein function in primate evolution. This work highlights the widespread dynamic nature of the spatiotemporal KZFP:TE transcriptome and its potential importance throughout neurotypical human brain development.

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