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Introns: A mystery renewed
Date:12/10/2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The sequences of nonsense DNA that interrupt genes could be far more important to the evolution of genomes than previously thought, according to a recent Science report by Indiana University Bloomington and University of New Hampshire biologists.

Their study of the model organism Daphnia pulex (water flea) is the first to demonstrate the colonization of a single lineage by "introns," as the interrupting sequences are known. The scientists say introns are inserted into the genome far more frequently than current models predict. The scientists also found what appear to be "hot spots" for intron insertion -- areas of the genome where repeated insertions are more likely to occur. And surprisingly, the vast majority of intron DNA sequences the scientists examined were of unknown origin.

"The thinking has been that these insertion events are very rare because they always have bad effects," said postdoctoral fellow Abraham Tucker, a lead author of the Science paper.

Graduate student Wenli Li, whose participation in the research overlaps her dissertation work, was the paper's co-lead author. Li said she was particularly interested in the notion of hot spots that make it more likely for separate lineages of Daphnia to gain introns in the same place (or the same general area) within the water fleas' genomes. Four of the 23 different kinds of introns the scientists found were not unique with respect to position. If introns were always inserted in random places within genes, the scientists would have expected zero introns to have identical insertion points.

"The most intriguing finding for me is the multiple instances of parallel intron gains, because this means that Daphnia is in an active phase of intron proliferation," Li said. "This makes Daphnia an extraordinary system to study intron evolution. In addition, we believe our work facilitates a more accurate estimate of intron
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Contact: David Bricker
brickerd@indiana.edu
812-856-9035
Indiana University
Source:Eurekalert  

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