Stochastic predator-prey dynamics of transposons in the human genome

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Transposable elements, or transposons, are DNA sequences that can jump from site to site in the genome during the life cycle of a cell, usually encoding the very enzymes which perform their excision. However, some transposons are parasitic, relying on the enzymes produced by the regular transposons. In this case, we show that a stochastic model, which takes into account the small copy numbers of the active transposons in a cell, predicts noise-induced predator-prey oscillations with a characteristic time scale that is much longer than the cell replication time, indicating that the state of the predator-prey oscillator is stored in the genome and transmitted to successive generations. Our work demonstrates the important role of the number fluctuations in the expression of mobile genetic elements, and shows explicitly how ecological concepts can be applied to the dynamics and fluctuations of living genomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number208101
JournalPhysical review letters
Issue number20
StatePublished - Nov 10 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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