From Salk News:
“We are taught that our DNA is something stable and unchanging which makes us who we are, but in reality it’s much more dynamic,” says Rusty Gage, a professor in Salk’s Laboratory of Genetics. “It turns out there are genes in your cells that are capable of copying themselves and moving around, which means that, in some ways, your DNA does change.”
For at least a decade, scientists have known that most cells in the mammalian brain undergo changes to their DNA that make each neuron, for example, slightly different from its neighbor. Some of these changes are caused by “jumping” genes—officially known as long interspersed nuclear elements (LINEs)—that move from one spot in the genome to another. In 2005, the Gage lab discovered that a jumping gene called L1, which was already known to copy and paste itself into new places in the genome, could jump in developing neuronal brain cells.
The team had hypothesized that such changes create potentially helpful diversity among brain cells, fine-tuning function, but might also contribute to neuropsychiatric conditions.
“While we’ve known for a while that cells can acquire changes to their DNA, it’s been speculated that maybe it’s not a random process,” says Tracy Bedrosian, a former Salk research associate and first author of the study. “Maybe there are factors in the brain or in the environment that cause changes to happen more or less frequently.” More.
Not what we were led to expect by adherents to the Central Dogma.
See also: Comparing human and chimp DNA, using a software analogy
Epigenetic change: Lamarck, wake up, you’re wanted in the conference room!