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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Sep 3, 1996; 93(18): 9374–9377.

DNA sequence insertion and evolutionary variation in gene regulation.


Current evidence on the long-term evolutionary effect of insertion of sequence elements into gene regions is reviewed, restricted to cases where a sequence derived from a past insertion participates in the regulation of expression of a useful gene. Ten such examples in eukaryotes demonstrate that segments of repetitive DNA or mobile elements have been inserted in the past in gene regions, have been preserved, sometimes modified by selection, and now affect control of transcription of the adjacent gene. Included are only examples in which transcription control was modified by the insert. Several cases in which merely transcription initiation occurred in the insert were set aside. Two of the examples involved the long terminal repeats of mammalian endogenous retroviruses. Another two examples were control of transcription by repeated sequence inserts in sea urchin genomes. There are now six published examples in which Alu sequences were inserted long ago into human gene regions, were modified, and now are central in control/enhancement of transcription. The number of published examples of Alu sequences affecting gene control has grown threefold in the last year and is likely to continue growing. Taken together, all of these examples show that the insertion of sequence elements in the genome has been a significant source of regulatory variation in evolution.

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