In The Field

We are not alone: our commensal lives start early

Just as recent metagenomic studies have demonstrated vast information about the bacteria that teem in and around us, there is a deep, mysterious well of ancient infections within our genomes Alexei Evsikov from Jackson Labs spoke this morning about the activity of so-called LTR retrotranposons during early embryonic development in mice. LTR retrotransposons are essentially viral remnants that have camped out at various places in the genome sometimes landing in areas that break up genes and sometimes brining promoter regions in close proximity to genes that would have otherwise gone unexpressed. Evsikov presented studies suggesting that these transposons become actively expressed and may even be working to intercalate themselves into new areas of the genome during the crucial developmental period when genes from sperm and egg meet to form a new genome of a new living creature. 


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