Summary
A transposable element (TE, transposon, or jumping gene) is a nucleic acid sequence in DNA that can change its position within a genome, sometimes creating or reversing mutations and altering the cell's genetic identity and genome size. Transposition often results in duplication of the same genetic material. In the human genome, L1 and Alu elements are two examples. Barbara McClintock's discovery of them earned her a Nobel Prize in 1983. Its importance in personalized medicine is becoming increasingly relevant, as well as gaining more attention in data analytics given the difficulty of analysis in very high dimensional spaces. Transposable elements make up a large fraction of the genome and are responsible for much of the mass of DNA in a eukaryotic cell. Although TEs are selfish genetic elements, many are important in genome function and evolution. Transposons are also very useful to researchers as a means to alter DNA inside a living organism. There are at least two classes of TEs: Class I TEs or retrotransposons generally function via reverse transcription, while Class II TEs or DNA transposons encode the protein transposase, which they require for insertion and excision, and some of these TEs also encode other proteins. Barbara McClintock discovered the first TEs in maize (Zea mays) at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. McClintock was experimenting with maize plants that had broken chromosomes. In the winter of 1944–1945, McClintock planted corn kernels that were self-pollinated, meaning that the silk (style) of the flower received pollen from its own anther. These kernels came from a long line of plants that had been self-pollinated, causing broken arms on the end of their ninth chromosomes. As the maize plants began to grow, McClintock noted unusual color patterns on the leaves. For example, one leaf had two albino patches of almost identical size, located side by side on the leaf. McClintock hypothesized that during cell division certain cells lost genetic material, while others gained what they had lost.
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A transposable element (TE, transposon, or jumping gene) is a nucleic acid sequence in DNA that can change its position within a genome, sometimes creating or reversing mutations and altering the cell's genetic identity and genome size. Transposition often results in duplication of the same genetic material. In the human genome, L1 and Alu elements are two examples. Barbara McClintock's discovery of them earned her a Nobel Prize in 1983.
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