Cruickshanks HA, Vafadar-Isfahani N, Dunican DS, Lee A, Sproul D, Lund JN, Meehan RR, Tufarelli C
LINE-1 retrotransposons are abundant repetitive elements of viral origin, which in normal cells are kept quiescent through epigenetic mechanisms. Activation of LINE-1 occurs frequently in cancer and can enable LINE-1 mobilization but also has retrotransposition-independent consequences. We previously reported that in cancer, aberrantly active LINE-1 promoters can drive transcription of flanking unique sequences giving rise to LINE-1 chimeric transcripts (LCTs). Here, we show that one such LCT, LCT13, is a large transcript (>300 kb) running antisense to the metastasis-suppressor gene TFPI-2. We have modelled antisense RNA expression at TFPI-2 in transgenic mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells and demonstrate that antisense RNA induces silencing and deposition of repressive histone modifications implying a causal link. Consistent with this, LCT13 expression in breast and colon cancer cell lines is associated with silencing and repressive chromatin at TFPI-2. Furthermore, we detected LCT13 transcripts in 56% of colorectal tumours exhibiting reduced TFPI-2 expression. Our findings implicate activation of LINE-1 elements in subsequent epigenetic remodelling of surrounding genes, thus hinting a novel retrotransposition-independent role for LINE-1 elements in malignancy.