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Study Finds Mobile Genetic Elements Rewiring Genomes

By: William Brown, Biophysicist at the Resonance Science Foundation

A study published in the journal Science has described the generation of a genetic transcription factor by fusion of a pre-existing gene with the transposase exon of a mobile genetic element [1]. Mobile, or transposable genetic elements cut-and-paste or copy-and-paste their genetic sequence into various sites throughout a genome using a transposase enzyme that they code for. In a survey of all tetrapod (vertebrate animals) genomes available the study identified 106 host-transposase fusion events, in which during transposition, transposase sequences were inserted into a pre-existing gene, resulting in alternative splicing of the gene generating novel functional proteins— many of which are involved in transcriptional regulation. Since transcriptional regulators interact simultaneously with large numbers of genes, up-regulating or down-regulating their expression in the gene network, such events can result in...

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