Are we Genomic Mosaics? Variations of the Genome of Somatic Cells can Contribute to Diversify our Phenotypes

Author(s): P. A. Astolfi, F. Salamini, V. Sgaramella

Journal Name: Current Genomics

Volume 11 , Issue 6 , 2010

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Theoretical and experimental evidences support the hypothesis that the genomes and the epigenomes may be different in the somatic cells of complex organisms. In the genome, the differences range from single base substitutions to chromosome number; in the epigenome, they entail multiple postsynthetic modifications of the chromatin. Somatic genome variations (SGV) may accumulate during development in response both to genetic programs, which may differ from tissue to tissue, and to environmental stimuli, which are often undetected and generally irreproducible. SGV may jeopardize physiological cellular functions, but also create novel coding and regulatory sequences, to be exposed to intraorganismal Darwinian selection. Genomes acknowledged as comparatively poor in genes, such as humans, could thus increase their pristine informational endowment. A better understanding of SGV will contribute to basic issues such as the “nature vs nurture” dualism and the inheritance of acquired characters. On the applied side, they may explain the low yield of cloning via somatic cell nuclear transfer, provide clues to some of the problems associated with transdifferentiation, and interfere with individual DNA analysis. SGV may be unique in the different cells types and in the different developmental stages, and thus explain the several hundred gaps persisting in the human genomes “completed” so far. They may compound the variations associated to our epigenomes and make of each of us an “(epi)genomic” mosaic. An ensuing paradigm is the possibility that a single genome (the ephemeral one assembled at fertilization) has the capacity to generate several different brains in response to different environments.

Keywords: Copy number variation, aneuploidy, genomics, epigenomics, transposons, retroposons

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Article Details

Year: 2010
Page: [379 - 386]
Pages: 8
DOI: 10.2174/138920210793175949
Price: $65

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