Recent studies indicate that long interspersed nuclear element-1 (L1) are mobilized in the genome of human neural progenitor cells and enhanced in Rett syndrome and ataxia telangiectasia. However, whether aberrant L1 retrotransposition occurs in mental disorders is unknown. Here, we report high L1 copy number in schizophrenia. Increased L1 was demonstrated in neurons from prefrontal cortex of patients and in induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell-derived neurons containing 22q11 deletions. Whole-genome sequencing revealed brain-specific L1 insertion in patients localized preferentially to synapse- and schizophrenia-related genes. To study the mechanism of L1 transposition, we examined perinatal environmental risk factors for schizophrenia in animal models and observed an increased L1 copy number after immune activation by poly-I:C or epidermal growth factor. These findings suggest that hyperactive retrotransposition of L1 in neurons triggered by environmental and/or genetic risk factors may contribute to the susceptibility and pathophysiology of schizophrenia.
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