Navigation Links
LSU research finds orangutans host ancient jumping genes

BATON ROUGE LSU's Mark Batzer, along with research associate Jerilyn Walker and assistant professor Miriam Konkel, have published research determining that modern-day orangutans are host to ancient jumping genes called Alu, which are more than 16 million years old. The study was done in collaboration with the Zoological Society of San Diego and the Institute of Systems Biology in Seattle and is featured in the new open access journal Mobile DNA.

These tiny pieces of mobile DNA are able to copy themselves using a method similar to retroviruses. They can be thought of as molecular fossils, as a shared Alu element sequence and location within the genome indicates a common ancestor. But, because this is an inexact process, a segment of "host" DNA is duplicated at the Alu insertion sites and these footprints, known as target site duplications, can be used to identify Alu insertions.

"However, it has long been recognized that only a small fraction of these elements retain the ability to mobilize new copies as 'drivers,' while most are inactive," said Batzer, Boyd Professor and Dr. Mary Lou Applewhite Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences. "In humans, telling the difference has proven quite difficult, mainly because the human genome is filled with plenty of relatively young Alu insertions, all with slight differences while at the same time lacking easily identifiable features characteristic for Alu propagation. This makes it hard to find their 'parent' or 'source Alu' from potentially hundreds of candidates that look similar."

In contrast to humans and other studied primates, recent activity of Alu elements in the orangutan has been very slow, with only a handful of recent events by comparison. This itself is very unique and was a highlighted feature of the Batzer Lab's previous Nature publication focusing on the Orangutan Genome. Read more at

"In the current study, we were able to discover the likely source Alu, or founder, of some of the very recent Alu insertions unique to the orangutan. This is significant for many reasons," said Walker. "First, this study represents only the second study that identified a driver Alu element. In addition, this driver is more than 16 million years old!"

Analysis of DNA sequences has found over a million Alu elements within each primate genome, many of which are species specific: 5,000 are unique to humans, while 2,300 others are exclusive to chimpanzees. In contrast, the orangutan lineage (Sumatran and Bornean orangutans) only has 250 specific Alu. Even though the Alu discovered in this study is old enough to be shared in human, chimpanzee, gorilla and orangutan genomes, its primary "jumping" has been in orangutans.

"Furthermore, this ancient 'backseat driver' created several daughter elements over the course of several millions years and a relatively young daughter element (found only in Sumatran orangutans and absent from Bornean orangutans) also appears to mobilize and has created offspring Alu copies of itself," said Konkel. This is promising new evidence that Alu propagation may be 'waking up' in orangutans.

The identification of an Alu element with the ability to mobilize itself contributes to the understanding of the evolution of Alu elements and their impact on primate genomes. Moreover, the features of this Alu element can be used to search for other source elements in different species including humans, which could lead to advances in our understanding of just how dynamic our genome really is.

Contact: Ashley Berthelot
Louisiana State University

Related biology news :

1. Sloppy shipping of human retina leads IU researchers to discover new treatment path for eye disease
2. UCSB researchers find that less is more, for female cowbirds
3. Researchers discover first gene linked to missing spleen in newborns
4. Researchers pinpoint genetic pathway of rare facial malformation in children
5. Researchers find reducing fishmeal hinders growth of farmed fish
6. Better housing conditions for zebrafish could improve research results
7. Researchers unveil new assessment for diagnosing malnutrition
8. Researchers show prebiotic can reduce severity of colitis
9. Game on! UCLA researchers use online crowd-sourcing to diagnose malaria
10. Americas clean energy policies need a reality check, say Stanford researchers
11. UC Santa Cruz builds national data center for cancer genome research
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/17/2015)... , November 17, 2015 Paris ... 2015.   --> Paris from 17 ... DERMALOG, the biometrics innovation leader, has invented the first ... fingerprints on the same scanning surface. Until now two different ... Now one scanner can capture both on the same ...
(Date:11/12/2015)...  A golden retriever that stayed healthy despite having ... provided a new lead for treating this muscle-wasting disorder, ... of MIT and Harvard and the University of São ... Cell, pinpoints a protective gene that boosts ... The Boston Children,s lab of Lou Kunkel , ...
(Date:11/10/2015)... Nov. 10, 2015 About ... that helps to identify and verify the identity ... considered as the secure and accurate method of ... a particular individual because each individual,s signature is ... especially when dynamic signature of an individual is ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/28/2015)... ... November 28, 2015 , ... • Jeon Jin Bio Corp, ... and rodent control solutions , Bird Free, ... works across all sensory modalities including visual, smell, taste and touch, enabling safe, effective ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... , November 27, 2015 ... Growing popularity of companion diagnostics is one ... biomarkers market with pharmaceutical companies and diagnostic ... diagnostic tests. . ... Complete report on global cancer biomarkers market ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... , November 26, 2015 ... Biobanking Market 2016 - 2020 report analyzes that ... integrity and quality in long-term samples, minimizing manual ... cost-effectiveness. Automation minimizes manual errors such as mislabeling ... efficiency. Further, it plays a vital role in ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... 25, 2015 Studies reveal the ... plaque and pave the way for more effective treatment for ...     --> --> ... health problems in cats, yet relatively little was understood about ... studies have been conducted by researchers from the WALTHAM Centre ...
Breaking Biology Technology: