Grace Lee Rose Hills
Accurately Measuring Retrotransposon Expression Levels in Tumorigenesis
Retrotransposons are sections of our DNA that can replicate and insert themselves into our genome to create duplicates and invite mutations. They make up around 40% of our genome, yet their roles in most biological pathways is not yet completely understood. We see a significant derepression of certain retrotransposons when we analyze the expressions levels of retrotransposons in cancer cells. This derepression tells us that they are activated and take part in tumorigenesis, though the precise mechanism is unclear. To begin to understand these retransposons, we must first develop an accurate assay that can detect the expression levels of certain retrotransposons and be able to differentiate from the rest. This assay must also take into account the fact that because retrotransposons inherently amplify themselves in the genome, over time, some of these copies have become non functional. We want to know how much of the functional gene is activated during tumorigenesis so that eventually we may be able to pinpoint and stop the mechanism involved in cancer formation.