Jumping genes threaten egg cell quality

phys.org | 5/29/2014 | Staff
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A woman's supply of eggs is finite, so it is crucial that the quality of their genetic material is ensured. New work from Carnegie's Marla Tharp, Safia Malki, and Alex Bortvin elucidates a mechanism by which, even before birth, the body tries to eliminate egg cells of the poorest quality. Their findings describing this mechanism are published by Nature Communications.

"Some organisms produce a large number of offspring, many of which don't survive to adulthood; females in these species continually produce new egg cells throughout their reproductive lives," Bortvin explained. "But in mammals, females are born with a fixed supply of eggs and produce few progeny. Thus, each egg is a precious commodity necessitating quality control to ensure wellbeing of her children."

Years - Scientists - Percent - Mammal - Pool

For 50 years, scientists have known that up to 80 percent of a female mammal's original pool of potential egg cells are eliminated during fetal development through a process called fetal oocyte attrition, or FOA. This phenomenon is conserved in all studied mammals and but despite its ancient origins, much about this process remains mysterious. Bortvin and his team say FOA targets those egg cells with reduced quality.

Previous work by Bortvin and Malki indicated that this elimination of potential egg cells during fetal development is related to a transposable element, or "jumping gene," called LINE-1.

Carnegie - Biologist - Barbara - McClintock - Genes

Originally discovered by Carnegie biologist Barbara McClintock, jumping genes can move around in a cell's DNA, often breaking genes but sometimes also introducing genetic...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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