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Biol Trace Elem Res. 2015 Jul;166(1):24-33. doi: 10.1007/s12011-015-0298-3. Epub 2015 Mar 14.

Altering Genomic Integrity: Heavy Metal Exposure Promotes Transposable Element-Mediated Damage.

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Department of Epidemiology and Tulane Cancer Center, SL-66, Tulane University Health Sciences Center, 1430 Tulane Ave., New Orleans, LA, 70112, USA.


Maintenance of genomic integrity is critical for cellular homeostasis and survival. The active transposable elements (TEs) composed primarily of three mobile element lineages LINE-1, Alu, and SVA comprise approximately 30% of the mass of the human genome. For the past 2 decades, studies have shown that TEs significantly contribute to genetic instability and that TE-caused damages are associated with genetic diseases and cancer. Different environmental exposures, including several heavy metals, influence how TEs interact with its host genome increasing their negative impact. This mini-review provides some basic knowledge on TEs, their contribution to disease, and an overview of the current knowledge on how heavy metals influence TE-mediated damage.

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