Send to

Choose Destination
Gene. 2000 Dec 23;259(1-2):61-7.

Genomic scrap yard: how genomes utilize all that junk.

Author information

National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20894, USA.


Interspersed repetitive sequences are major components of eukaryotic genomes. Repetitive elements comprise over 50% of the mammalian genome. Because the specific function of these elements remains to be defined and because of their unusual 'behaviour' in the genome, they are often quoted as a selfish or junk DNA. Our view of the entire phenomenon of repetitive elements has to now be revised in the light of data on their biology and evolution, especially in the light of what we know about the retroposons. I would like to argue that even if we cannot define the specific function of these elements, we still can show that they are not useless pieces of the genomes. The repetitive elements interact with the surrounding sequences and nearby genes. They may serve as recombination hot spots or acquire specific cellular functions such as RNA transcription control or even become part of protein coding regions. Finally, they provide very efficient mechanism for genomic shuffling. As such, repetitive elements should be called genomic scrap yard rather than junk DNA. Tables listing examples of recruited (exapted) transposable elements are available at

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center