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Could selfish DNA create new proteins?

Selfish DNA has been defined as DNA "with no phenotypic expression whose only 'function' is survival within genomes." In the 13 October Science, [] Ogata et al. find what appears to be selfish DNA lodged in the middle of 19 genes of Rickettsia conorii [], an intracellular bacterium of ticks (Science 2000, 290:347-350). The repeats are palindromes that encode a mildly hydrophobic α helix surrounded by two extended or coil regions. This appears to be a non-functional module that has been inserted at the surface of a collection of unrelated proteins. Although the inserts probably do not provide a specific function, genetic drift from the original sequence could allow the evolution of new protein sequences, domains and functions.


  1. Selfish genes, the phenotype paradigm and genome evolution.

  2. Science, []

  3. Rickettsioses as paradigms of new or emerging infectious diseases.

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Wells, W. Could selfish DNA create new proteins?. Genome Biol 1, spotlight-20001017-01 (2000).

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