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Press Release Ecofect - 20 May 2020

On The May 20, 2020

New Ecofect collaborative publication: Viral infection impacts transposable element transcript amounts in Drosophila

Transposable elements are genomic parasites that are able to move and multiply along chromosomes. They are found in all organisms and occupy half of the human genome, notably. When they transpose, they cause mutations, that may be deleterious or at the source of genetic innovation. The activity of transposable elements is not constant over time. It is known that certain factors such as stress can trigger transposition; however, the understanding of the dynamics of these sequences within genomes is still only partial.

The study developed by researchers from Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1 and École Pratique des Hautes Études within Laboratoire de Biométrie Biologie Évolutive and Infections Virales et Pathologie Comparée, and funded by LabEx Ecofect as part of the ERMIT project, shows that viral infections are a new factor at the origin of the modulation of transposable element activity. Indeed, using different strains of Drosophila and the Sindbis arbovirus, it appears that transposable element transcript amounts –which are necessary for transposition– vary upon infection. These modulations are mediated by RNA interference pathways, which are involved in the antiviral response of Drosophila.

Considering that viral infections impact transposable element activity, these results suggest that they may play a role in modulating the speed of genome evolution.

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Reference article:
Viral infection impacts transposable element transcript amounts in Drosophila
Marlène Roy, Barbara Viginier, Édouard Saint-Michel, Frédérick Arnaud, Maxime Ratinier, and Marie Fablet
PNAS first published May 20, 2020 | PDF