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UCI research uncovers key insights into ‘parasitic genes’

They’re thought-about “parasitic genes.” Regardless that they comprise over half of human DNA, a lot stays to be discovered about them. Now College of California, Irvine biologists supply new insights into these entities generally known as transposons, offering information that might someday assist in the battle in opposition to cancers and aging-related illnesses.

Their research seems in eLife.

Not like genes that encode proteins wanted for us to operate, transposons make proteins solely to repeat their very own DNA and insert it different components. “They’re egocentric parasites,” mentioned research chief Grace Yuh Chwen Lee, assistant professor of ecology & evolutionary biology. “They perpetuate themselves and, more often than not, they do not do something for us.”

Virtually all species comprise transposons and have developed chemical modifications that cease their continued replication. However the proportion of transposons varies broadly throughout genomes. It ranges from 50 p.c in people and 65 p.c and salamanders to only six p.c in puffer fish. Even amongst completely different sorts of fruit flies, the determine varies from two to 25 p.c.

The UCI biologists sought to grasp what has precipitated this variation. Their inquiry stemmed from earlier analysis by Lee and colleagues exhibiting that these chemical modifications stopping transposons from replicating have what the staff calls “nasty unintended effects.” The chemical modifications themselves unfold to neighboring genes and disrupt their functioning.

On this new investigation, we discovered that these unintended effects various in power and harmfulness. We discovered that over time, species whose unintended effects had been particularly detrimental to adjoining genes skilled stronger choice that eliminated transposons. This resulted in a decrease proportion of transposons of their genomes now.”

Grace Yuh Chwen Lee, assistant professor of ecology & evolutionary biology

The staff additionally found that the variation in aspect impact severity might have stemmed from the genes manufacturing and distributing the chemical modifications. The biologists plan to additional discover this challenge in upcoming analysis.

Transposons have already been linked to some uncommon inherited illnesses. Extra lately, scientists have discovered they’re activated in getting older brains and sure most cancers cells.

“Whereas their function in these respects continues to be unclear, it might ultimately be attainable to develop therapies by altering the genes that produce these chemical modifications,” Lee mentioned. “We additionally wish to discover whether or not issues corresponding to weight loss program and the atmosphere, that are identified to affect how cells distribute the chemical modifications, impact transposons.”

Postdoctoral scholar Yuheng Huang served because the paper’s first writer. Help for the mission was supplied by the Nationwide Institutes of Well being.


Journal reference:

Huang, Y., et al. (2022) Species-specific chromatin panorama determines how transposable components form genome evolution. eLife.

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