They can be found in plants, animals and even in humans - inactive remains of jumping genes, transposons. Researchers are striving to develop active transposons from these remains, using them as tools to decode gene function.
At the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany, researchers have now succeeded in reconstructing the first active transposon of the Harbinger transposon superfamily.
In the laboratory, the artificial transposon developed by Dr. Ludivine Sinzelle, Dr. Zsuzsanna Izsvák, and Dr. Zoltán Ivics also shows cut-and-paste transposition in human cells and promises to serve as a useful experimental system for investigating human gene function.
Transposons comprise about half of the human genome. "They are molecular parasites, similar to fleas, only that they are in the genome of the host and not on its back," Dr. Zoltán Ivics explained. They jump, move, and proliferate through the host, without whom they could not survive. In most cases, transposons do not fulfill any function in the human genome. "However, not all are superfluous," Dr. Ivics went on to say. "More than 100 active genes, including some associated with the immune system, have been recognized as probably derived from transposons."
To reconstruct an active transposon, Dr. Ivics' team compared the DNA of various inactive Harbinger transposons, one of the largest superfamilies of transposons. Based on these results, they developed an artificial jumping gene. "We were very lucky," Dr. Ivics said. "The very first experiment was successful."
Moreover, in the course of evolution, transposons have been responsible for the emergence of new genes. Thus, through computerized gene analysis, Dr. Ivics' research team has discovered two new elements related to the Harbinger transposon. In a new project, Dr. Ivics aims to elucidate just what role these play in the human body.
Over the long term, scientists hope to use such transposons in gene therapy as well. With the aid of a transposon, an intact copy of a gene could be incorporated into the genome of a patient to repair a defective gene. "But until this can happen, there is still a lot to be done," Dr. Ivics pointed out. "The new gene should not just jump in anywhere."
*Transposition of a Reconstructed Harbinger Element in Human Cells and Functional Homology with Two Transposon-derived Cellular Genes
Ludivine Sinzelle1, Vladimir V. Kapitonov,2, Dawid P. Grzela1, Tobias Jursch1, Jerzy Jurka2, Zsuzsanna Izsvák1,3 and Zoltán Ivics11Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, Berlin, Germany;
Barbara Bachtler | idw
The balancing act: An enzyme that links endocytosis to membrane recycling
07.12.2016 | National Centre for Biological Sciences
Transforming plant cells from generalists to specialists
07.12.2016 | Duke University
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:...
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...
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...
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...
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,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine
07.12.2016 | Life Sciences
07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine