Mobile DNA: Finding Treasure in Junk

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FT Press, Mar 18, 2011 - Science - 288 pages

This book thoroughly reviews our current scientific understanding of the significant role that mobile genetic elements play in the evolution and function of genomes and organisms–from plants and animals to humans. Highly-regarded geneticist Haig Kazazian offers an accessible intellectual history of the field’s research strategies and concerns, explaining how advances opened up new questions, and how new tools and capabilities have encouraged progress in the field.

Kazazian introduces the key strategies and approaches taken in leading laboratories (including his own) to gain greater insight into the large proportion of our genome that derives from mobile genetic elements, including viruses, plasmids, and transposons. He also presents intriguing insights into long-term research strategies that may lead to an even deeper understanding.


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Thoughts on Doing Science
Introduction to Mobile
Varieties of Mobile
DNA Transposons Chapter 4 Mobile DNA of Model Organisms Chapter 5 Exceptional Scientists Working on Mobile DNA in Lower Organisms
Role of Bioinformatics in Genome Analysis
The Prologue
Welcome to the Wonderful World of LINEs
An Experimental Breakthrough
Ostertags Coups
The Independent Canadian
The Musician Scientist
Young Ladies in the Back
The Brilliant Young Lady from China Chapter 22 Hirokis Big Surprises Chapter 23 A Young Man with a Purpose
Other Mobile DNA in Mammalian Genomes Chapter 25 Effects of Retrotransposons on Mammalian Genomes
Host Factors Involved in L1 Retrotransposition
Why Mobile DNA?

Reverse Transcriptase to the Rescue
A Quirk of L1 ElementsA Lousy 3 End Is Important for Genome Evolution
A Tour de Force from Tom Eickbush
I dont believe all those colonies represent retrotransposition events
L1 Encodes an Endonuclease
The Jocks
The Mayor and the Frenchman
The Future of Mobile DNA Research
Predictions for Mobile

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About the author (2011)

Haig H. Kazazian, Jr. received his A.B. degree from Dartmouth College in 1959. He then attended Dartmouth Medical School, a two-year school at the time, and finished his M.D. degree at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. At Hopkins, he met his wife of nearly 50 years and married during his internship in Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota Hospital. After two years training in Minneapolis, he returned to Johns Hopkins for a two-year fellowship in genetics with Barton Childs, M.D. He then trained for two years in molecular biology in the lab of Harvey Itano, M.D., at the NIH. After a third year of Pediatric training at Johns Hopkins, he joined the faculty there in 1969. He rose through the ranks to become a full professor in 1977, and at that time, he headed the Pediatric Genetics Unit. In 1988, he became Director of the Center for Medical Genetics at Johns Hopkins.

After 25 years on the Hopkins faculty, he was recruited to the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine as Chair of the Department of Genetics in 1994. At Penn, he recruited 10 young faculty to the department. In 2006, he stepped down as department chair, but remained as the Seymour Gray Professor of Molecular Medicine in Genetics until 2010. In July 2010, he returned to Johns Hopkins as a Professor in the Institute of Genetic Medicine. Dr. Kazazian is still heavily involved in molecular genetic research, concentrating for the past 20 years on mammalian and human transposable elements, or “jumping genes.” Prior to 1988, he characterized much of the variation in the cluster of genes involved in production of the beta chain of human hemoglobin. With Stuart Orkin at Harvard, his work led to the nearly complete characterization of the mutations causing the β-thalassemias, common anemias in regions of the world endemic for malaria.

Dr. Kazazian is a member of a number of national organizations, including the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has received a number of honors for his research, most notably the 2008 William Allan Award, the top honor of the American Society of Human Genetics.

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