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Trends Genet. 2003 Oct;19(10):530-6.

Transposable elements in mammals promote regulatory variation and diversification of genes with specialized functions.

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Terry Fox Laboratory, British Columbia Cancer Agency, 601 West 10th Avenue, Vancouver, BC, V5Z1L3, Canada.


Nearly half of mammalian genomes are derived from ancient transposable elements (TEs). We analyzed the prevalence of TEs in untranslated regions of human and mouse mRNAs and found evidence suggesting that TEs affect the expression of many genes through the donation of transcriptional regulatory signals. Furthermore, we found that recently expanded gene classes, such as those involved in immunity or response to external stimuli, have transcripts enriched in TEs, whereas TEs are excluded from mRNAs of highly conserved genes with basic functions in development or metabolism. These results support the view that TEs have played a significant role in the diversification and evolution of mammalian genes.

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