Background: Transposable elements (TEs) are a significant component of eukaryotic genomes and play essential roles in genome evolution. Mounting evidence indicates that TEs are highly transcribed in early embryo development and contribute to distinct biological functions and tissue morphology. Results: We examine the epigenetic dynamics of mouse TEs during the development of five tissues: Intestine, liver, lung, stomach, and kidney. We found that TEs are associated with over 20% of open chromatin regions during development. Close to half of these accessible TEs are only activated in a single tissue and a specific developmental stage. Most accessible TEs are rodent-specific. Across these five tissues, 453 accessible TEs are found to create the transcription start sites of downstream genes in mouse, including 117 protein-coding genes and 144 lincRNA genes, 93.7% of which are mouse-specific. Species-specific TE-derived transcription start sites are found to drive the expression of tissue-specific genes and change their tissue-specific expression patterns during evolution. Conclusion: Our results suggest that TE insertions increase the regulatory potential of the genome, and some TEs have been domesticated to become a crucial component of gene and regulate tissue-specific expression during mouse tissue development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number255
JournalGenome biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 28 2020


  • Accessible transposable element
  • Embryo development
  • Mouse
  • Tissues


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