Wednesday, 26 October 2011

'Junk DNA' defines differences between humans and chimps

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have now determined that the insertion and deletion of large pieces of DNA near genes are highly variable between humans and chimpanzees and may account for major differences between the two species. The research team lead by Georgia Tech Professor of Biology John McDonald has verified that while the DNA sequence of genes between humans and chimpanzees is nearly identical, there are large genomic "gaps" in areas adjacent to genes that can affect the extent to which genes are "turned on" and "turned off." The research shows that these genomic "gaps" between the two species are predominantly due to the insertion or deletion (INDEL) of viral-like sequences called retrotransposons that are known to comprise about half of the genomes of both species. The findings are reported in the most recent issue of the online, open-access journal Mobile DNA.

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