Researchers isolate genetic agents behind DNA diversity

Scientific Developments/Breakthroughs

A team of University of Leicester researchers have discovered a specific gene which plays a key role in causing diversity in the DNA of humans.

Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, the scientist responsible for the discovery of DNA fingerprinting, has led the research into the PRDM9 gene, which creates a protein that triggers the rearrangement and recombination of DNA minisatellites.

According to Professor Jeffreys, the reason for these mutations has been a subject of scrutiny since 1984 and could explain the chromosomal rearrangements which lead to genetic disorders.

It is now hoped that this knowledge will increase understanding of genetic diversity, as well as of disease-causing DNA rearrangements.

Professor Jeffreys said: "I've come full circle - starting out with minisatellites to develop DNA fingerprinting and arriving at a gene containing a minisatellite that plays a key role in driving all kinds of human DNA diversity."

Last month, scientists from the Medical Research Council - one of the sponsors of Dr Jeffreys' research - discovered a genetic signature in the blood of patients with active tuberculosis, which could form the basis of future tests for the disease.

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