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Mobile DNA Makes Transcription Stumble

Researchers show that retrotransposons can influence phenotypic variation by triggering early transcription termination.

By | February 27, 2012

COURTESY OF JENNIFER TORRANCE AND STANTON SHORT, THE JACKSON LABORATORY

New research published online February 23 in Genome Research suggests that jumping genes can influence phenotypic variation by meddling with transcription of a variety of genes, even at long genomic distances.

Researchers from the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center with collaborators around the United States mapped a type of mobile genetic element called endogenous retrovirus elements (ERV), in 6 previously un-sequenced mouse genomes. Negative selection appears to be working against ERVs, as they appeared at a lower frequency than random chance, especially in genes integral to embryogenesis.

Focusing on one intronic ERV in the gene Slc15a2, which encodes a transporter of peptide-like molecules, the group found that ERV insertion can correlate with premature termination of transcription products and reduced protein expression in a number of genes, some as far as 12.5 kilobases away from the insertion site in the genome.

“These findings add an interesting new angle to our understanding of fundamental mechanisms of natural variation and human biology, and possibly cancer and other diseases," lead author David E. Symer of the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute said in a press release.

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