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New research shows plants can shuffle and paste gene pieces to generate genetic diversity

ot the usual fate because the duplicate copy usually mutate into oblivion."

The discovery of thousands of Pack-MULEs in the rice genome indicates that this may be an important mechanism to create new genes and new functions in rice and in other plants where MULEs are known to flourish. Recent studies indicate that species evolve through the generation of new genes and/or gene variants that help a population adapt to a changing environment, for example, or to inhabit a different niche.

Why are transposable elements so successful? Some think that they are simply "junk" that, much like viruses, they can make lots of copies but do little to help the host. There is mounting evidence, however, that TEs help organisms evolve by making it easier to generate the sort of genetic novelty that is necessary for them to cope with a changing world.

Thus, instead of being beasts of burden, Pack-MULEs may serve rice as a tool of evolutionary change.


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Contact: Kim Carlyle
kcarlyle@uga.edu
706-542-8083
University of Georgia
29-Sep-2004


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