Fighting genomic parasites – lessons from an unusual organism

Transposable elements (TEs) are parasitic DNA sequences that can jump within the host genome and disrupt its normal function. To preserve genome integrity, eukaryotic cells are in an arms race to fight TEs. The main weapon in their arsenal are small RNAs, that silence the transcription of TEs. Paradoxically, to identify and ultimately eliminate TEs, precursors of small RNAs must be transcribed from TEs.

Scientists led by Josef Loidl from the Max Perutz Labs now show details of how the organism Tetrahymena thermophilia manages to effectively eliminate TEs from their active genome.

The findings are published in the journal “Current Biology”.

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