Monday, October 8, 2007
Junkyard and/or 'hardware superstore'?
GMO Pundit aka David Tribe has a post about yet another story of an ancient mammalian TE co-opted for gene regulation. The study, just published in PLoS Genetics and led by Marcelo Rubinstein, an HHMI International Scholar from the Institute for Research on Genetic Engineering and Molecular Biology and the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina, demonstrates that an ancient SINE (short interspersed nuclear element) has donated an enhancer DNA element, conserved in all mammals examined, that directly contributes to the expression of the propiomelanocortin (POMC) gene in hypothalamic neurons. The POMC gene is involved in the production of neuropeptides controlling functions as diverse as the stress response, skin and hair pigmentation, analgesia, and the regulation of food intake and energy balance. It is tempting to speculate that the acquisition of the neuronal enhancer from the SINE was a key step in the functional evolution of POMC in mammals and the advent of mammalian-specific evolutionary innovations.