Think all of your genetic material came straight down to you from further up your family tree? A team of researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington doesn't think so. In a finding that shakes up the prevailing theory that mammals pass on genetic material vertically from parent to progeny, researchers have found hard evidence of horizontal DNA transfer -- swapping genetic material between non-mating species -- between some parasites and their vertebrate hosts.
In other words, mammals -- including humans -- could be carrying around DNA from parasitic insects, and that DNA could potentially be altering human evolution over the long term.
Specifically, the genome biologists found evidence of horizontal DNA transmission in a South American blood-sucking bug as well as a tiny species of pond snail. The genes that made the leap were transposons, segments of DNA that move around within the genome, bouncing around cells replicating and changing the amount of genetic material present. Transposons can cause mutations and changes to genome function in cells, which makes the idea of foreign transposons wandering around in our genomes all the more strange.
The transposons the researchers isolated were found in the parasitic triatomine bug were 98 percent identical to transposons found in opossums and squirrel monkeys that served as their hosts. If monkeys and opossums can horizontally receive transposons with bugs, then there's also a good chance humans might share some transposons with the bug, which regularly dines on human hosts.
The idea of horizontal DNA transfer isn't novel -- we know that millions of years ago some transposons made the leap sideways to enter several mammalian genomes -- but the mechanism by which this occurred was never known. By using computer models of the 102 animals for which we have complete genomes, the team pinpointed the interspecies transposon overlap.
Since nearly half the human genome comes from transposons, the finding could spell serious consequences for our own genome, particularly in terms of how understand our own evolution.
I've read several articles about horizontal transfer from Viruses to the Genome, it's interesting that evidence of horizontal transfer from bugs to mammals has been found too. I'm sure it has happened in humans with the large amount of transposons we have... possibly from lice O.O
Someone call Jeff Goldblum, I feel a sequel coming on..."Heeelllp Meeeeee...Heeelllp Meeeeee"
so this means that............SPIDER MAN IS REAL!!!!!!!!!
This is pretty creepy, but also a little exciting at the same time. It could possibly change our understanding of the process of evolution. Obviously natural selection is probably still the #1 mechanism driving evolution, but it may not be the only one..
Although I think the obvious path of genetic crossing might be from insects parasitizing humans, - over 10s of thousands of years, people have also used insects as food, dye and other insect parts have gone into consumer products, and even topical medication. So there is a wide variety of ways in which insect DNA could have been introduced into human physiology. Not all insect uses involved cooking or other DNA-destructive preparation before use. Kids in some tropical countries today will catch and eat insects raw.
A blood sucking gene in humans? So that's where lawyers came from. :)
Shouldn't we all be terribly concerned that this phenomenon is the beginning of the zombie-vampire apocalypse? Genomes from parasitic blood sucking insects like triatomine rhodnius prolixus (may they rot in hell) combining with the human genome of their hapless victims will ultimately result in zombie-vampire like creatures that feed on the flesh and blood of mammals and other humans. The explosive population growth of these zombie-vampire mutant insects will result in the devastation of human populations that are in contact with the mutants, until the final war is fought between the forces of mankind and the disorganized but fearsome army of undead zombie-vampire mutants!
May God have mercy on us all!
Suddenly the lessons learned from Zombieland and Shaun of the dead don't seem so foolish.....
Cool! I hope that ev eryone had a happy Cinco De Mayo. That goes for last year and all the other years that I've missed.
I meant everyone. Sorry about the typo.
So....zombie / vampire / human-winged chimera (Splice) apocalypse anyone?
So could transposons cause cancer? Or, would that explain that mooching brother-in-law? Or that really, really smart mosquito you can't quite swat?