VD Bacteria Incorporates Human DNA

Looks like gonorrhea has predated its human scientists in the area of cell bioengineering.  A Feb 14 article in mBio described the discovery of human DNA fragments in Neisseria gonorrhoea. No one knows yet what advantages the bacteria gains with the addition.  The incorporated copy of the human L1 element resides next to the irg4 gene of approximately 11 percent of the population.  The authors speculate that this is a relatively recent occurrence given the low percentage found in the N. Gonorrhoea population.

Apparently LINE-1 (Long Interspersed Nuclear Elements – 1 or L1) retrotransposons appear in approximately 20% of the mass of mammalian DNA.  It has a distinctly higher rate of appearance in the sex genes.  There would appear to be some relation between the incorporation of the L1 line in N. Gonorrhoea and its function as a sexually transmitted disease.  At least 11% of its population has found it either useful or at least not harmful to its propogation.

Research into retrotransposons and their relationship to human physiology is still in its early phases.  There appears to be a strong link between retrotransposons and what is commonly called “junk DNA”.   There is some limited recent research linking LINE’s with incorporation of new functionality.

Opportunity and Means: Horizontal Gene Transfer from the Human Host to a Bacterial Pathogen

The Genomic Distribution of L1 Elements: The Role of Insertion Bias and Natural Selection


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