Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Parasites ready to jump

04.08.2009
How the cell represses mobile genetic elements

Transposons are mobile genetic elements found in the hereditary material of humans and other organisms. They can replicate and the new copies can insert at novel sites in the genome. Because this threatens the whole organism, molecular mechanisms have evolved which can repress transposon activity.

Professor Klaus Förstemann of the Gene Center of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) in Munich and a team of researchers working with the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster have now uncovered a new type of cellular defence that acts against DNA sequences present in high copy numbers inside the cell, even if they have not integrated into the genome.

Small molecules of RNA (a class of nucleic acid closely related to the genetic material DNA) play the central role. "Transposons are genomic parasites, so to speak", says Förstemann. "If they are allowed to proliferate, the genome can become unstable or cancers can develop. We now want to find out whether mammalian cells possess this newly discovered defence mechanism and to elucidate precisely how it works." (EMBO Journal online, 30 July 2009.)

Transposons constitute a significant fraction of the genomes of most higher organisms. Indeed, it is estimated that these mobile elements, which include one or more genes, make up as much as half of the genetic material. "This demonstrates", says Förstemann, "that it is not always possible to tame these "selfish" genetic elements, although highly efficient mechanisms of defence have evolved. For instance, in the germ cells, which are required for reproduction, the system of so-called piRNAs ensures that transposon activity is inhibited – but only if these RNAs are transmitted from the mother. Disruption of this system usually leads to a drastic reduction in the fertility of the progeny.

Germ cells are an ideal target for transposons, since these cells pass their genetic material – together with integrated mobile elements – on to all cells of the progeny. But normal body (somatic) cells can also be attacked by transposons. For example, certain viruses carry transposons in their genomes and introduce them into the host cells they infect. Therefore, transposon activity must also be repressed in somatic cells. Recently so-called endo-siRNAs that perform this function were discovered in the fruitfly. A similar class of molecules has been found in mice.

By means of a process called RNA interference, the siRNAs enable the cell to recognize and destroy messenger RNAs derived from transposons. The researchers in Förstemann's group were able to identify a protein that is essential for the production of endo-siRNAs. It turns out that this is a previously unknown variant of the protein "Loquacious". In Drosophila, Loquacious can bind to specific RNA molecules that serve as precursors of the endo-siRNAs. Furthermore, the team pinpointed an entirely novel feature of this system: Repression of transposon activity was also detectable when multiple copies of a mobile element were present in the cell but not yet incorporated into the genome.

The phenomenon of RNA interference first came to light only a short time ago, but has already become a well established field of study. Thanks to more recent findings, the known repertoire of small RNAs has grown. As Förstemann stresses, "It is therefore particularly important to discriminate between the various molecular classes in terms of their modes of synthesis and specific functions". This is no easy task, since all these molecules are similar in size and virtually indistinguishable chemically. "We will now test whether the mechanism we have found in Drosophila also exists in mammalian cells. We would also like to know how the mechanism is targeted specifically against sequences present in high copy numbers".

The project was carried out under the auspices of the excellence cluster "Center for Integrated Protein Science Munich" (CIPSM).

Publication:
"Endo-siRNAs depend on a new isoform of loquacious and target artificially introduced, high-copy sequences"
Julia Verena Hartig, Stephanie Esslinger, Romy Böttcher, Kuniaki Saito and Klaus Förstemann

EMBO Journal online, 30 July 2009

Contact:
Professor Klaus Förstemann
Gene Center of LMU Munich
Phone: +49 (0) 89 / 2180 - 76912
E-Mail: foerstemann@lmb.uni-muenchen.de

Prof Klaus Förstemann | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uni-muenchen.de

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Cloud Formation: How Feldspar Acts as Ice Nucleus
09.12.2016 | Karlsruher Institut für Technologie

nachricht Closing the carbon loop
08.12.2016 | University of Pittsburgh

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Closing the carbon loop

08.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Applicability of dynamic facilitation theory to binary hard disk systems

08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Scientists track chemical and structural evolution of catalytic nanoparticles in 3-D

08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>