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Mobile elements such as Alu repeats have substantially altered the architecture of the human genome, and de novo mobile element insertions sometimes cause genetic disorders. Previous estimates for the retrotransposition rate (RR) of Alu elements in humans of one new insertion every ∼100-125 births were developed prior to the sequencing of the human and chimpanzee genomes. Here, we used two independent methods (based on the new genomic data and on disease-causing de novo Alu insertions) to generate refined Alu RR estimates in humans. Both methods consistently yielded RR on the order of one new Alu insertion every ∼20 births, despite the fact that the evolutionary-based method represents an average RR over the past ∼6 million years while the mutation-based method better reflects the current-day RR. These results suggest that Alu elements retrotranspose at a faster rate in humans than previously thought, and support the potential of Alu elements as mutagenic factors in the human genome. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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