Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Orangutans host ancient jumping genes

Date:
May 7, 2012
Source:
Louisiana State University
Summary:
Modern-day orangutans are host to ancient jumping genes called Alu, which are more than 16 million years old. The study was done in collaboration with the Zoological Society of San Diego and the Institute of Systems Biology in Seattle and is featured in the new open access journal Mobile DNA.

LSU's Mark Batzer, along with research associate Jerilyn Walker and assistant professor Miriam Konkel, have published research determining that modern-day orangutans are host to ancient jumping genes called Alu, which are more than 16 million years old. The study was done in collaboration with the Zoological Society of San Diego and the Institute of Systems Biology in Seattle and is featured in the new open access journal Mobile DNA.

These tiny pieces of mobile DNA are able to copy themselves using a method similar to retroviruses. They can be thought of as molecular fossils, as a shared Alu element sequence and location within the genome indicates a common ancestor. But, because this is an inexact process, a segment of "host" DNA is duplicated at the Alu insertion sites and these footprints, known as target site duplications, can be used to identify Alu insertions.

"However, it has long been recognized that only a small fraction of these elements retain the ability to mobilize new copies as 'drivers,' while most are inactive," said Batzer, Boyd Professor and Dr. Mary Lou Applewhite Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences. "In humans, telling the difference has proven quite difficult, mainly because the human genome is filled with plenty of relatively young Alu insertions, all with slight differences while at the same time lacking easily identifiable features characteristic for Alu propagation. This makes it hard to find their 'parent' or 'source Alu' from potentially hundreds of candidates that look similar."

In contrast to humans and other studied primates, recent activity of Alu elements in the orangutan has been very slow, with only a handful of recent events by comparison. This itself is very unique and was a highlighted feature of the Batzer Lab's previous Nature publication focusing on the Orangutan Genome.

"In the current study, we were able to discover the likely source Alu, or founder, of some of the very recent Alu insertions unique to the orangutan. This is significant for many reasons," said Walker. "First, this study represents only the second study that identified a driver Alu element. In addition, this driver is more than 16 million years old!"

Analysis of DNA sequences has found over a million Alu elements within each primate genome, many of which are species specific: 5,000 are unique to humans, while 2,300 others are exclusive to chimpanzees. In contrast, the orangutan lineage (Sumatran and Bornean orangutans) only has 250 specific Alu. Even though the Alu discovered in this study is old enough to be shared in human, chimpanzee, gorilla and orangutan genomes, its primary "jumping" has been in orangutans.

"Furthermore, this ancient 'backseat driver' created several daughter elements over the course of several millions years and a relatively young daughter element (found only in Sumatran orangutans and absent from Bornean orangutans) also appears to mobilize and has created offspring Alu copies of itself," said Konkel. This is promising new evidence that Alu propagation may be 'waking up' in orangutans.

The identification of an Alu element with the ability to mobilize itself contributes to the understanding of the evolution of Alu elements and their impact on primate genomes. Moreover, the features of this Alu element can be used to search for other source elements in different species including humans, which could lead to advances in our understanding of just how dynamic our genome really is.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Louisiana State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jerilyn A Walker, Miriam K Konkel, Brygg Ullmer, Christopher P Monceaux, Oliver A Ryder, Robert Hubley, Arian F A Smit, Mark A Batzer. Orangutan Alu Quiescence Reveals Possible Source Element: Support for Ancient Backseat Drivers. Mobile DNA, 2012; 3 (1): 8 DOI: 10.1186/1759-8753-3-8

Cite This Page:

Louisiana State University. "Orangutans host ancient jumping genes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120507102352.htm>.
Louisiana State University. (2012, May 7). Orangutans host ancient jumping genes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120507102352.htm
Louisiana State University. "Orangutans host ancient jumping genes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120507102352.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India

Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) A leopard caused panic in the city of Chandrapur on Monday when it sprung from the roof of a house and charged at rescue workers. (April 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs

Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) Drake University hosts 35th annual Beautiful Bulldog Contest. (April 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
805-Pound Shark Caught Off The Coast Of Florida

805-Pound Shark Caught Off The Coast Of Florida

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) One Florida fisherman caught a 805-pound shark off the coast of Florida earlier this month. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakfast Foods Are Getting Pricier

Breakfast Foods Are Getting Pricier

AP (Apr. 21, 2014) Breakfast is now being served with a side of sticker shock. The cost of morning staples like bacon, coffee and orange juice is on the rise because of global supply problems. (April 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

More Coverage


Orangutans Harbor Ancient Primate Alu

Apr. 29, 2012 Alu elements infiltrated the ancestral primate genome about 65 million years ago. Once gained an Alu element is rarely lost so comparison of Alu between species can be used to map primate evolution ... read more
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins