Some germline genes in C. elegans get license to operate from genomic ‘watermarks’
C. Frøkjær-Jensen et al/Cell 2016
“Junk DNA” may be an essential part of a worm’s inheritance.
Parts of this not-so-disposable DNA serves as a “watermark” to authenticate a Caenorhabditis elegans roundworm’s own genes and distinguish them from foreign genes that need to be shut down, researchers report in the July 14 Cell.
Genes bearing the watermarks — called PATCs — are protected against being shut down. These genes also tend to be active in the germ line (eggs and sperm and the cells that give rise to them). Genes without authentication codes get turned off, especially in the germ line, the researchers discovered. That raises the possibility that other species, perhaps even humans, issue their own germline gene work permits.
Researchers have known that C.