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Mobile elements represent a relatively new class of markers for the study of human evolution. Long interspersed elements (LINEs) belong to a group of retrotransposons comprising approximately 21% of the human genome. Young LINE-1 (L1) elements that have integrated recently into the human genome can be polymorphic for insertion presence/absence in different human populations at particular chromosomal locations. To identify putative novel L1 insertion polymorphisms, we computationally compared two draft assemblies of the whole human genome (Public and Celera Human Genome assemblies). We identified a total of 148 potential polymorphic L1 insertion loci, among which 73 were candidates for novel polymorphic loci. Based on additional analyses we selected 34 loci for further experimental studies. PCR-based assays and DNA sequence analysis were performed for these 34 loci in 80 unrelated individuals from four diverse human populations: African-American, Asian, Caucasian, and South American. All but two of the selected loci were confirmed as polymorphic in our human population panel. Approximately 47% of the analyzed loci integrated into other repetitive elements, most commonly older L1s. One of the insertions was accompanied by a BC200 sequence. Collectively, these mobile elements represent a valuable source of genomic polymorphism for the study of human population genetics. Our results also suggest that the exhaustive identification of L1 insertion polymorphisms is far from complete, and new whole genome sequences are valuable sources for finding novel retrotransposon insertion polymorphisms. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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