“Kipferl”: Guiding the defense against jumping genes

A large part of our DNA is made up of selfish repetitive DNA elements, some of which can jump from one site in the genome to another, potentially damaging the genome. Researchers from the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (IMBA) describe how different types of repetitive DNA elements are controlled by the same silencing mechanism in fruit fly ovaries. Central to their findings is an uncharacterized protein that the researchers named “Kipferl”, which ensures the effective control of jumping genes. The findings suggest that different selfish elements compete for the host genome defense system and that Kipferl might be the first of a series of similarly acting molecules yet to be uncovered. The findings are published in eLife.

Rhino re-localizes to the pericentromeric Satellite arrays upon Kipferl mutation or deletion. Two Drosophila egg chambers containing several nuclei: Wild Type (left) or upon Kipferl inactivation (right). The DNA is shown in blue and Rhino in green. Upon mutation or deletion of the partner protein Kipferl (right), Rhino loses its affinity for the piRNA cluster sequences across the genome (green dots in the left panel) but is sequestered by the pericentromeric Satellite arrays (green crescent-like shapes in the right panel). The crescent shapes inspired the name “Kipferl”, the name of an Austrian pastry. ©Baumgartner/Brennecke/IMBA

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