Specific subfamilies of transposable elements contribute to different domains of T lymphocyte enhancers
Transposable elements (TEs) compose nearly half of mammalian genomes and provide building blocks for
-regulatory elements. Using high-throughput sequencing, we show that 84 TE subfamilies are overrepresented, and distributed in a lineage-specific fashion in core and boundary domains of CD8
T cell enhancers. Endogenous retroviruses are most significantly enriched in core domains with accessible chromatin, and bear recognition motifs for immune-related transcription factors. In contrast, short interspersed elements (SINEs) are preferentially overrepresented in nucleosome-containing boundaries. A substantial proportion of these SINEs harbor a high density of the enhancer-specific histone mark H3K4me1 and carry sequences that match enhancer boundary nucleotide composition. Motifs with regulatory features are better preserved within enhancer-enriched TE copies compared to their subfamily equivalents located in gene deserts. TE-rich and TE-poor enhancers associate with both shared and unique gene groups and are enriched in overlapping functions related to lymphocyte and leukocyte biology. The majority of T cell enhancers are shared with other immune lineages and are accessible in common hematopoietic progenitors. A higher proportion of immune tissue-specific enhancers are TE-rich compared to enhancers specific to other tissues, correlating with higher TE occurrence in immune gene-associated genomic regions. Our results suggest that during evolution, TEs abundant in these regions and carrying motifs potentially beneficial for enhancer architecture and immune functions were particularly frequently incorporated by evolving enhancers. Their putative selection and regulatory cooption may have accelerated the evolution of immune regulatory networks.