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Genetics in a post-Darwin world: Herpes virus hides out in fish DNA

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From Dan Samorodnitsky at MassiveSci:

This goes for your genome, too. It’s easy to imagine that your genes are clean, orderly, and easily known. Companies like 23andme and Ancestry.com make their bones off this idea, that our building blocks are transparent and readable like a book.

But that’s not really what a genome is. Genomes are slap-dash, hodgepodge collections of genes, often in no discernible order. And a lot of it isn’t even the owner’s genes. In the 1950, Barbara McClintock identified “jumping genes,” which could move essentially of their own accord and change the appearance of maize stalks. (That’s a skull-shattering discovery to make, working alone and before the structure of DNA was determined, but because the Nobel Prizes are what they are, McClintock had to wait decades to receive her prize.)

Geneticists at the University of Tokyo, led by Yusuke Inoue and Hiroyuki Takeda, looked at Teratorn, a transposon, like Alu. Instead of humans, it parasitizes medaka, a small, adorable fish native to east Asia. They found that Teratorn is huge. A “base” is an individual unit of DNA. The human genome is 3 billion bases long. Alu is a compact 300 bases long. Teratorn is 180,000 bases, 10 times bigger than the next biggest transposon ever discovered. It was that enormous, they found, because it contained within it an entire herpes virus genome. (Yes, fish get herpes.) More.

So nature is a novel writing itself?

Oh look, maybe not. But remember, creationists did not do this to you. Nature did.

See also: The “deteriorating” Y chromosome features new genes File under: The complete inadequacy of the Darwin-driven, gene-centric approach to evolution.


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