Diseases such as AIDS and leukemia caused by retroviruses have intensified the need to understand the mechanisms of retrovirus replication. One of our objectives is to understand how retroviral cDNAs are integrated into the genome of infected cells. Because of their similarities to retroviruses, long terminal repeat (LTR)-retrotransposons are important models for retrovirus replication. The retrotransposon under study in our laboratory is the Tf1 element of the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe. We are particularly interested in Tf1 because its integration exhibits a strong preference for pol II promoters. This choice of target sites is similar to the strong integration preferences human immunodeficiency virus 1 (HIV-1) and murine leukemina virus (MLV) have for pol II transcription units. Currently, it is not clear how these viruses recognize their target sites. We therefore study the integration of Tf1 as a model system with which we hope to uncover mechanisms general to the selection of integration sites. An understanding of the mechanisms responsible for targeted integration could lead to new approaches for antiviral therapies and to improvements in the application of viral vectors in gene therapy. The integration of Tf1 into the promoters of genes raises several key questions about the biology of Tf1 integration. Are all promoters recognized equally or is integration directed to specific sets of promoters. If specific sets of promoters are preferred targets, what distinguishes the preferred promoters from those not recognized by Tf1. To address these questions we sequenced large numbers of insertions throughout the genome of S. pombe using the new methods for ultra high throughput sequencing. We performed four independent transposition experiments using haploids and diploids and two different restriction enzymes (Mse I or Hpy CH4 IV) to digest the genomic DNA. All together BLAST results identified 73,125 independent Tf1 integration events. The vast majority of insertions clustered within 500 bp upstream of ORFs confirming the preference for promoter sequences observed in the target plasmid assays and the small numbers of genomic insertions previously characterized. Analysis of integration levels in promoters revealed that Tf1 integration is high in approximately 1,000 promoters. A comparison of independent experiments revealed that we obtained a reproducible and saturated measure of the integration in each of the 5,000 promoters of S. pombe. The results of the gene ontology analysis revealed that genes regulated by environmental stress were favored targets of integration. The strongest correlations were seen with promoters induced by osmotic and oxidative stress. This targeting of stress response genes coupled with the ability of Tf1 to regulate the expression of adjacent genes suggests the intriguing possibility that Tf1 may improve the survival of S. pombe when cells are exposed to environmental stress. To determine the biological significance of Tf1 integration we took advantage of saturated maps of insertion activity and studied how integration at hot spots effected the expression of the adjacent genes. Our study of 32 genes at common sites of insertion revealed that Tf1 integration did not reduce gene expression. Importantly, the insertions activated the expression of 6 transcripts corresponding to 19% of the genes tested. Our analysis of transcripts revealed Tf1 induced genes by inserting enhancer activity. Interestingly, the enhancer activity of Tf1 could be limited by Abp1, a host surveillance factor that sequesters transposon sequences into structures containing histone deacetylases. We found the Tf1 promoter was activated by heat treatment and remarkably, only genes that themselves were induced by heat could be activated by Tf1 integration, suggesting a synergy of Tf1 enhancer sequence with the stress response elements of target promoters. We propose that the integration preference of Tf1 for the promoters of stress response genes and the ability of Tf1 to induce these genes co-evolved to enhance the survival of cells under stress. With the introduction of new deep sequencing technology it is now possible to sequence many millions of transposon insertions in a single experiment. We tested whether Illumina sequencing could be used to generate a dense profile of transposon insertions that would reveal which genes are required for cell division. For this experiment we used a haploid strain of S. pombe and Hermes, a DNA transposon from the housefly. In previous work we found that the Hermes transposon was highly active in S. pombe and that a large fraction of the insertions occurred in ORFs. We predicted that in actively growing cultures, Hermes insertions would not be tolerated in essential ORFs. We induced Hermes transposition in a large culture S. pombe that was grown for 80 generations. With ligation mediated PCR and Illumina sequencing we were able to sequence 360,513 independent insertion events. On average, this represented one insertion for every 29 bp of the S. pombe genome. An analysis of integration density revealed that the ORFs largely separated into two classes, one with high numbers of insertions and another with much lower numbers. In collaboration with a group that deleted each of the genes of S. pombe, we found the ORFs with low numbers of Hermes insertion corresponded to the essential genes. The ORFs with higher integration densities were in genes classified as nonessential. These results validated integration profiling as a new method for identifying genes with essential function. Importantly, by applying specific conditions of selection during growth, this method can be adopted to identify genes that contribute to a wide variety of functions.

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Chatterjee, Atreyi Ghatak; Esnault, Caroline; Guo, Yabin et al. (2014) Serial number tagging reveals a prominent sequence preference of retrotransposon integration. Nucleic Acids Res 42:8449-60
Feng, Gang; Leem, Young-Eun; Levin, Henry L (2013) Transposon integration enhances expression of stress response genes. Nucleic Acids Res 41:775-89
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