Neuronal Genome Plasticity: Retrotransposons, Environment and Disease
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The neuronal genome has long been considered as a stably persisting entity interpreted as the foundation of neurobiology. Over the past decade, it has become increasingly clear that mobile genetic elements, such as the retrotransposon LINE-1 (L1), are actively transcribed and transpose in the healthy brain. L1 activity therefore provides a route to somatic genome diversity and dynamism in neuronal populations. Here, we discuss the discovery of L1 retrotransposition during neurogenesis, and consider how neuronal cells regulate retrotransposition in response to endogenous and environmental stimuli. We also bring forward hypotheses relating to how L1 impacts normal brain development and function, as well as how abnormal L1 mobilisation could contribute to neurological disease susceptibility and pathophysiology.