DNA and RNA editing of retrotransposons accelerate mammalian genome evolution

Binyamin A. Knisbacher, Erez Y. Levanon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Genome evolution is commonly viewed as a gradual process that is driven by random mutations that accumulate over time. However, DNA- and RNA-editing enzymes have been identified that can accelerate evolution by actively modifying the genomically encoded information. The apolipoprotein B mRNA editing enzymes, catalytic polypeptide-like (APOBECs) are potent restriction factors that can inhibit retroelements by cytosine-to-uridine editing of retroelement DNA after reverse transcription. In some cases, a retroelement may successfully integrate into the genome despite being hypermutated. Such events introduce unique sequences into the genome and are thus a source of genomic innovation. adenosine deaminases that act on RNA (ADARs) catalyze adenosine-to-inosine editing in double-stranded RNA, commonly formed by oppositely oriented retroelements. The RNA editing confers plasticity to the transcriptome by generating many transcript variants from a single genomic locus. If the editing produces a beneficial variant, the genome may maintain the locus that produces the RNA-edited transcript for its novel function. Here, we discuss how these two powerful editing mechanisms, which both target inserted retroelements, facilitate expedited genome evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-125
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 New York Academy of Sciences.


  • ADAR
  • DNA editing
  • Genome evolution
  • RNA editing
  • Retrotransposons


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