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Two human proteins found to affect how ‘jumping gene’ gets around

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Posted November 22, 2013
2 human proteins found to affect how 'jumping gene' gets around
This is a dramatic rendering of a technique used in this study, in which frozen cells were broken open to reveal interactions among the molecules inside. Credit: Sigrid Knemeyer/Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Using a new method to catch elusive “jumping genes” in the act, researchers have found two human proteins that are used by one type of DNA to replicate itself and move from place to place. The discovery, described in the Nov. 21 issue of Cell, breaks new ground, they say, in understanding the arms race between a jumping gene driven to colonize new areas of the human genome and cells working to limit the risk posed by such volatile bits of DNA.

Jumping genes, more formally known as transposons or transposable elements, are DNA segments with the blueprints for proteins that help to either copy the segment or remove it, then insert it into a new place in the genome. Human genomes are littered with the remnants of ancient jumping genes, but because cells have an interest in limiting such trespasses, they have evolved ways to regulate them. Most jumping genes have mutated and can no longer move, but these “rusting hulks” are still passed down from generation to generation.

One exception is a jumping gene called L1, which has been so successful that copies of it make up about 20 percent of human DNA. While many of these copies are now mutated and dormant, others are still active and thus the subject of much interest from geneticists.

Read more at: Phys.org

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