A new paper has just been published in the journal Genome Biology by John Rinn and David Kelley, identifying a role for transposable elements in gene regulation in stem cells. Science Daily reports on the paper:
Over a decade after sequencing the human genome, it has now become clear that the genome is not mostly ‘junk’ as previously thought. In fact, the ENCODE project consortium of dozens of labs and petabytes of data have determined that these ‘noncoding’ regions house everything from disease trait loci to important regulatory signals, all the way through to new types of RNA-based genes.
Yet over 70 years ago, it was first proclaimed that all this junk wasn’t so junky. Barbara McClintock discovered the first utility of all of this junk DNA: jumping genes, also known as transposable elements. These genes serve only one purpose, which is to replicate themselves and reinsert randomly in the genome, or do they? Ironically, at the same time two other scientists (Roy Britten and Eric Davidson) proposed that jumping genes may be involved in regulating cell specificity. Indeed, in an exciting new study published in Genome Biology, John Rinn and David Kelley based at Harvard University and the Broad Institute in Boston, USA, provide genome-wide evidence that jumping genes may shape when a gene is turned on or off in stem cells.