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posted 06. December 2002 08:30
Nature 420, 458 - 459 (2002); doi:10.1038/420458a
Mouse genome: A forage in the junkyard
by Carina Dennis
One of the main differences between the mouse and human genomes lies in the activity of 'junk' DNA sequences called retrotransposons. Carina Dennis considers what these sequences might be doing.
Wherever human garbage accumulates, mice will forage. But in genomics, the tables are being turned. For some geneticists, the most intriguing aspect of the mouse genome lies in its 'junk' — DNA sequences that don't code for proteins. The mouse, they believe, will prove a fertile hunting ground for researchers who want to understand why and how mammalian genomes accumulate this garbage, and whether it has any function.
Much of the junk is the work of transposons, genetic 'parasites' that have accumulated in mammalian genomes over millions of years by being copied into new genomic locations. Most are retrotransposons, which reproduce through an RNA intermediate, and so must use a reverse transcriptase enzyme to restore their original DNA sequence as they jump back into the genome.
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