Attempts to detect retrotransposition and de novo deletion of Alus and other dispersed repeats at specific loci in the human genome
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Dispersed repeat elements contribute to genome instability by de novo insertion and unequal recombination between repeats. To study the dynamics of these processes, we have developed single DNA molecule approaches to detect de novo insertions at a single locus and Alu-mediated deletions at two different loci in human genomic DNA. Validation experiments showed these approaches could detect insertions and deletions at frequencies below 10(-6) per cell. However, bulk analysis of germline (sperm) and somatic DNA showed no evidence for genuine mutant molecules, placing an upper limit of insertion and deletion rates of 2 x 10(-7) and 3 x 10(-7), respectively, in the individuals tested. Such re-arrangements at these loci therefore occur at a rate lower than that detectable by the most sensitive methods currently available.