Recent technological developments-in genomics, bioinformatics and high-throughput experimental techniques-are providing opportunities to study ongoing human transposable element (TE) activity at an unprecedented level of detail. It is now possible to characterize genome-wide collections of TE insertion sites for multiple human individuals, within and between populations, and for a variety of tissue types. Comparison of TE insertion site profiles between individuals captures the germline activity of TEs and reveals insertion site variants that segregate as polymorphisms among human populations, whereas comparison among tissue types ascertains somatic TE activity that generates cellular heterogeneity. In this review, we provide an overview of these new technologies and explore their implications for population and clinical genetic studies of human TEs. We cover both recent published results on human TE insertion activity as well as the prospects for future TE studies related to human evolution and health.
Journal: Mobile genetic elements