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A civil war inside our cells: Scientists show how our bodies fight off 'jumping genes'
Date:4/25/2014

often hard to see what normally happens during an efficient process that occurs inside our cells," he explains. "But by blocking the process that would normally clean up the evidence of this interaction, we can start to see what is going on."

Dangerous junk

Our cells may each contain as many as 500,000 copies of LINE-1, says Moran, the Gilbert S. Omenn Collegiate Professor of human genetics and professor of internal medicine at U-M and an HHMI research investigator.

LINE-1 is part of the so-called "junk DNA" that makes up half of our genetic material but the purpose of "junk DNA" is unclear.

Most LINE-1 copies lay dormant, but a few dozen active copies reside in each cell. LINE-1 retrotransposons can activate and jump, making them dangerous junk.

In fact, LINE-1 alone may cause one in every 250 disease-causing mutations in humans.

So, the "junk" moniker doesn't really fit, says Moran though he admits we are probably stuck with this label. He and his team have studied LINE-1 and other jumping genes for years, working with colleagues from the University of Pennsylvania and the Salk Institute, who are co-authors on this paper, and, in previous studies, with colleagues at Duke University.

Fighting fire with fire

In addition to fighting LINE-1 jumps that can cause mutations, APOBEC enzymes also fight off certain viruses. In fact, scientists first discovered these enzymes when observing how human cells fight off infection by HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Just like HIV, LINE-1 spreads throughout our DNA by making an RNA copy of its genetic sequence. Then, the RNA is copied back into a new LINE 1 copy that can slide into a new location in our DNA -- a process called retrotransposition.

In this new paper, the researchers show that LINE-1 has one important point of vulnerability. When the new DNA copy peels away from the RNA, an APOBEC3A mo
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Contact: Kara Gavin
kegavin@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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