Retrotransposons in the Mammalian Male Germline

Shumin Zhou, Akihiko Sakashita, Shuiqiao Yuan, Satoshi H. Namekawa

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Retrotransposons are a subset of DNA sequences that constitute a large part of the mammalian genome. They can translocate autonomously or non-autonomously, potentially jeopardizing the heritable germline genome. Retrotransposons coevolved with the host genome, and the germline is the prominent battlefield between retrotransposons and the host genome to maximize their mutual fitness. Host genomes have developed various mechanisms to suppress and control retrotransposons, including DNA methylation, histone modifications, and Piwi-interacting RNA (piRNA), for their own benefit. Thus, rapidly evolved retrotransposons often acquire positive functions, including gene regulation within the germline, conferring reproductive fitness in a species over the course of evolution. The male germline serves as an ideal model to examine the regulation and evolution of retrotransposons, resulting in genomic co-evolution with the host genome. In this review, we summarize and discuss the regulatory mechanisms of retrotransposons, stage-by-stage, during male germ cell development, with a particular focus on mice as an extensively studied mammalian model, highlighting suppression mechanisms and emerging functions of retrotransposons in the male germline.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)404-422
Number of pages19
JournalSexual Development
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Jul 1


  • DNA methylation
  • Histone modifications
  • Meiosis
  • Retrotransposons
  • Spermatogenesis
  • Transposable elements
  • piRNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Embryology
  • Developmental Biology


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