News FocusCell Biology

The Immune System's Compact Genomic Counterpart

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Science  04 Jan 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6115, pp. 25-27
DOI: 10.1126/science.339.6115.25

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Much of the human genome derives from self-serving DNA strands known as transposons. These genetic gypsies often jump to new chromosome locations, sometimes disabling genes and even triggering cancer. For that reason, a specialized group of RNA molecules known as piRNAs are the superheroes of animal genomes. piRNAs team up with certain proteins to shackle transposons in animal germline cells, creating a molecular defense that scientists liken to an immune system for the genome.