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Fruit fly gene from 'out of nowhere' is discovered

nown to copy and insert themselves into DNA sequences. For example, one theory is that when a transposon sits next to a gene and then jumps to a new location, it carries part of the gene sequence it was next to and inserts it in the new location. Often, transposable elements appear to have no function or may be harmful and are eliminated by natural selection, but researchers are beginning to think transposons may be a source for creating new functional genes as well.

The hydra gene is named after the Greek mythological beast that had a hound's body and nine snakeheads, because it has nine duplicated first exons (sections of the gene that contain protein-coding information). Each of these exons may serve as alternative starting positions for the gene to become activated. The researchers found that most of these exons had a sequence for a transposable element sitting right next to it. Duplicated sequences generated by transposons may be part of the mechanism for creating new genes, as the duplications provide more chances for a gene to evolve.


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