Genetic Chaos

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Recently Integrated Alu Elements and Human Genomic Diversity

A comprehensive analysis of two Alu Y lineage subfamilies was undertaken to assess Alu-associated genomic diversity and identify new Alu insertion polymorphisms for the study of human population genetics. Recently integrated Alu elements (283) from the Yg6 and Yi6 subfamilies were analyzed by polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and 25 of the loci analyzed were polymorphic for insertion presence/absence within the genomes of a diverse array of human populations. These newly identified Alu insertion polymorphisms will be useful tools for the study of human genomic diversity. Our screening of the Alu insertion loci also resulted in the recovery of several ‘‘young’’ Alu elements that resided at orthologous positions in nonhuman primate genomes. Sequence analysis demonstrated these ‘‘young’’ Alu insertions were the products of gene conversion events of older, preexisting Alu elements or independent parallel forward insertions of older Alu elements in the same short genomic region. The level of gene conversion between Alu elements suggests that it may have an influence on the single nucleotide polymorphism within Alu elements in the genome. We have also
identified two genomic deletions associated with the retroposition and insertion of Alu Y lineage elements into the human genome. This type of Alu retroposition–mediated genomic deletion is a novel source of lineage-specific evolution within primate genomes.

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