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Human endogenous retroviruses (HERV) constitute approximately 8% of the human genome and have long been considered "junk". The sheer number and repetitive nature of these elements make studies of their expression methodologically challenging. Hence, little is known of transcription of genomic regions harboring such elements.
Applying a recently developed technique for obtaining high resolution melting temperature data, we examined the frequency distributions of HERV-W gag element into 13 Tm categories in human tissues. Transcripts containing HERV-W gag sequences were expressed in non-random patterns with extensive variations in the expression between both tissues, including different brain regions, and individuals. Furthermore, the patterns of such transcripts varied more between individuals in brain regions than other tissues.
Thus, regulated expression of non-coding regions of the human genome appears to include the HERV-W family of repetitive elements. Although it remains to be established whether such expression patterns represent leakage from transcription of functional regions or specific transcription, the current approach proves itself useful for studying detailed expression patterns of repetitive regions.