Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Evolution: the Raw Power of Jumping Genes

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have discovered that a kind of gene labelled "jumping genes" within a genome has extensive variations in different individuals, as found through gene mapping of these jumping gene locations. From this finding, the researchers have postulated that these jumping genes may be a driving factor in our genetic diversity. This is highlighted by the results of the study, which showed that out of the 1139 genome sites observed, approximately 285 sites would be different for any two individuals. The reason for these variations were found to be due to the jumping genes, which are essentially DNA sequences that may "jump" from one location in a cell's genome and "land" in another location within the same cell's genome.

While previously the significance of these genes influence on genetic diversity was underestimated, this study proves these genes result in large variation in genome sites and that jumping genes could thus be described as the raw force behind genetic evolution.

Also known as transposons, jumping genes can influence an organism in many ways, as even subtle changes in an organisms genome can result in distinctly different phenotypes. Every individual would have these jumping genes, which may jump and insert genetic material into new locations. This could thus result in negative effects on cell structure (like genetic diseases and cancer), creation of new genes, or decreasing the expression of genes near the jumping genes' landing site. All factors would increase the diversity of an organisms' genome.

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