University of Massachusetts Medical School Faculty Publications


Investigating the Potential Roles of SINEs in the Human Genome

UMMS Affiliation

Program in Bioinformatics and Integrative Biology; Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

Publication Date


Document Type



Genetics | Genomics | Molecular Genetics | Nucleic Acids, Nucleotides, and Nucleosides


Short interspersed nuclear elements (SINEs) are nonautonomous retrotransposons that occupy approximately 13% of the human genome. They are transcribed by RNA polymerase III and can be retrotranscribed and inserted back into the genome with the help of other autonomous retroelements. Because they are preferentially located close to or within gene-rich regions, they can regulate gene expression by various mechanisms that act at both the DNA and the RNA levels. In this review, we summarize recent findings on the involvement of SINEs in different types of gene regulation and discuss the potential regulatory functions of SINEs that are in close proximity to genes, Pol III-transcribed SINE RNAs, and embedded SINE sequences within Pol II-transcribed genes in the human genome. These discoveries illustrate how the human genome has exapted some SINEs into functional regulatory elements.


SINE, Alu, MIR, IRAlu, gene regulation

DOI of Published Version



Zhang XO, Pratt H, Weng Z. Investigating the Potential Roles of SINEs in the Human Genome. Annu Rev Genomics Hum Genet. 2021 Apr 1. doi: 10.1146/annurev-genom-111620-100736. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33792357. Link to article on publisher's site

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Annual review of genomics and human genetics

PubMed ID