The transposable element environment of human genes is associated with histone and expression changes in cancer

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Abstract

Background: Only 2 % of the human genome code for proteins. Among the remaining 98 %, transposable elements (TEs) represent millions of sequences. TEs have an impact on genome evolution by promoting mutations. Especially, TEs possess their own regulatory sequences and can alter the expression pattern of neighboring genes. Since they can potentially be harmful, TE activity is regulated by epigenetic mechanisms. These mechanisms participate in the modulation of gene expression and can be associated with some human diseases resulting from gene expression deregulation. The fact that the TE silencing can be removed in cancer could explain a part of the changes in gene expression. Indeed, epigenetic modifications associated locally with TE sequences could impact neighboring genes since these modifications can spread to adjacent sequences. Results: We compared the histone enrichment, TE neighborhood, and expression divergence of human genes between a normal and a cancer conditions. We show that the presence of TEs near genes is associated with greater changes in histone enrichment and that differentially expressed genes harbor larger histone enrichment variation related to the presence of particular TEs. Conclusions: Taken together, these results suggest that the presence of TEs near genes could favor important variation in gene expression when the cell environment is modified.

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Grégoire, L., Haudry, A., & Lerat, E. (2016). The transposable element environment of human genes is associated with histone and expression changes in cancer. BMC Genomics, 17(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12864-016-2970-1

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