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Transpositional shuffling and quality control in male germ cells to enhance evolution of complex organisms

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Andreas Werner, Monica Piatek



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


Complex organisms, particularly mammals, have long generation times and produce small numbers of progeny that undergo increasingly entangled developmental programs. This reduces the ability of such organisms to explore evolutionary space, and, consequently, strategies that mitigate this problem likely have a strategic advantage. Here, we suggest that animals exploit the controlled shuffling of transposons to enhance genomic variability in conjunction with a molecular screening mechanism to exclude deleterious events. Accordingly, the removal of repressive DNA-methylation marks during male germ cell development is an evolved function that exploits the mutagenic potential of transposable elements. A wave of transcription during the meiotic phase of spermatogenesis produces the most complex transcriptome of all mammalian cells, including genic and noncoding sense-antisense RNA pairs that enable a genome-wide quality-control mechanism. Cells that fail the genomic quality test are excluded from further development, eventually resulting in a positively selected mature sperm population. We suggest that these processes, enhanced variability and stringent molecular quality control, compensate for the apparent reduced potential of complex animals to adapt and evolve.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Werner A, Piatek MJ, Mattick JS

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences

Year: 2015

Volume: 1341

Pages: 156-163

Print publication date: 01/04/2015

Online publication date: 31/12/2014

Acceptance date: 01/01/1900

Date deposited: 05/04/2016

ISSN (print): 0077-8923

ISSN (electronic): 1749-6632

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Inc.


DOI: 10.1111/nyas.12608


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Funder referenceFunder name
Ruth Jacobson Studentship
631668Australian National Health & Medical Research Council
DMT SA10/0210Dunhill Medical Trust