Transposable elements (TEs) are both a boon and a bane to eukaryotic organisms, depending on where they integrate into the genome and how their sequences function once integrated. We focus on two types of TEs: long interspersed elements (LINEs) and short interspersed elements (SINEs). LINEs and SINEs are retrotransposons; that is, they transpose via an RNA intermediate. We discuss how LINEs and SINEs have expanded in eukaryotic genomes and contribute to genome evolution. An emerging body of evidence indicates that LINEs and SINEs function to regulate gene expression by affecting chromatin structure, gene transcription, pre-mRNA processing, or aspects of mRNA metabolism. We also describe how adenosine-to-inosine editing influences SINE function and how ongoing retrotransposition is countered by the body's defense mechanisms.
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