Waves of Retrotransposon Expansion Remodel Genome Organization and CTCF Binding in Multiple Mammalian Lineages
CTCF-binding locations represent regulatory sequences that are highly constrained over the course of evolution. To gain insight into how these DNA elements are conserved and spread through the genome, we defined the full spectrum of CTCF-binding sites, including a 33/34-mer motif, and identified over five thousand highly conserved, robust, and tissue-independent CTCF-binding locations by comparing ChIP-seq data from six mammals. Our data indicate that activation of retroelements has produced species-specific expansions of CTCF binding in rodents, dogs, and opossum, which often functionally serve as chromatin and transcriptional insulators. We discovered fossilized repeat elements flanking deeply conserved CTCF-binding regions, indicating that similar retrotransposon expansions occurred hundreds of millions of years ago. Repeat-driven dispersal of CTCF binding is a fundamental, ancient, and still highly active mechanism of genome evolution in mammalian lineages. º CTCF-binding locations are highly conserved across mammals º New locations for CTCF binding are carried by SINE repeats in many mammals º Ancient and newly born CTCF-binding events similarly demarcate chromatin barriers º Retroelements can reposition organizing elements throughout the genome Evolutionary analysis of six divergent mammals uncovers both highly conserved and species-specific binding locations of the chromatin organizer, CTCF. This study reveals that activation of retroelements drives genome evolution by repositioning genome-organizing elements.