Laboratory experiments led by Hopkins scientists have revealed that so-called "jumping genes" create dramatic rearrangement in the human genome when they move from chromosome to chromosome. If the finding holds true in living organisms, it may help explain the diversity of life on Earth, the researchers report in the current (Aug. 9) issue of Cell.
"Jumping genes," or retrotransposons, are sequences of DNA that are easily and naturally copied from one location in the genome and inserted elsewhere, particularly in developing eggs and sperm. There are more than 500,000 copies in the human genome of the retrotransposon the scientists studied, accumulated over the millions of years of human evolution.
But the sheer quantity of these elements isnt as striking as what else they might be doing as they jump around, says Jef Boeke, Ph.D., professor of molecular biology and genetics in the Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
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