Telomeres in Drosophila are composed of sequential non-LTR retrotransposons HeT-A, TART and TAHRE. Although they are repressed by the PIWI-piRNA pathway or heterochromatin in the germline, the regulation of these retrotransposons in somatic cells is poorly understood. In this study, we demonstrated that specific splice variants of Mod(mdg4) repress HeT-A by blocking subtelomeric enhancers in ovarian somatic cells. Among the variants, we found that the Mod(mdg4)-N variant represses HeT-A expression the most efficiently. Subtelomeric sequences bound by Mod(mdg4)-N block enhancer activity within subtelomeric TAS-R repeats. This enhancer-blocking activity is increased by the tandem association of Mod(mdg4)-N to repetitive subtelomeric sequences. In addition, the association of Mod(mdg4)-N couples with the recruitment of RNA polymerase II to the subtelomeres, which reinforces its enhancer-blocking function. Our findings provide novel insights into how telomeric retrotransposons are regulated by the specific variants of insulator proteins associated with subtelomeric sequences.
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