Transposable Elements Are Key to Genome Regulation | The Institute for Creation Research

Transposable Elements Are Key to Genome Regulation

In the age of 'omics' research, such terms as genome, transcriptome, and proteome now describe aspects of vast molecular networks in the seemingly infinite complexity of how DNA functions in the cell. Adding to these areas of research is yet another field that has emerged over the past decade called the 'mobilome.' The term mobilome refers to a category of transposable DNA segments—sections of DNA that in some cases can excise themselves and move around in the genome (called transposable elements), sometimes taking other pieces of DNA with them. One area of research related to the mobilome—that is completely destroying one of the sacred cows of evolution—is the idea that transposable elements are nothing but useless 'junk DNA.'

Evolutionists once thought that transposable DNA elements, originally labeled 'jumping genes,' were merely the ancestral vestiges of viruses that, ages long ago, infested and bloated genomes. Much to the chagrin of evolutionists, the past decade of research has clearly shown that transposable elements play vital and purposeful roles in regulating how genes and the genome function. Moreover, they specifically play key roles related to the type of context in which a cell is located (i.e., tissue type).1, 2, 3 In fact, a high-profile research paper titled "Transposable Elements Re-Wire and Fine-Tune the Transcriptome" was just published in the journal PLoS Genetics.4 The transcriptome refers to the sum total of the protein coding and regulatory RNAs that are copied from various genes across the genome when they are activated in the cell.

One of the most interesting facets of how transposable elements are key to life is the fact that they are now implicated as critical regulatory features in mammalian embryo development. A recent 2012 study in the journal Nature, that was discussed in another ICR news story, showed that transposable elements are required for the beginnings of life in the earliest stages of embryo development.5, 6 Adding to this amazing discovery is yet another recent report in the journal Nature Genetics showing that a family of transposable elements in mammals contribute hundreds of genetic features called 'enhancers' that modulate gene expression in placental cells.7 The placenta connects the developing embryo to the uterus in mammals to uptake nutrients from the mother, exchange gasses (oxygen and carbon dioxide) with the mother, and to remove waste from the developing embryo's tissues. So not only are transposable elements critical DNA features in the developing embryo, but also in the life-support tissue that interacts with the mother.

The fact that extensive research is showing that transposable elements are essential to many aspects of gene and genome function illustrates the failure of evolutionary dogma that originally interpreted these as seemingly useless genetic artifacts. Far from being useless baggage in the genome, transposable DNAs are decisively proving to be central to life. Clearly, they are uniquely designed and highly-engineered elements of DNA expertly integrated into the incredibly complex function of the genome as programmed by God the Creator.


  1. Shapiro, J. A., and R. von Sternberg. 2005. Why repetitive DNA is essential to genome function. Biological Reviews. 80 (2): 227-250.
  2. Faulkner, G. J. et al. 2009. The regulated retrotransposon transcriptome of mammalian cells. Nature Genetics. 41 (5): 563-571.
  3. Mourier, T and E. Willerslev. 2009. Retrotransposons and non-protein coding RNAs. Briefings in Functional Genomics and Proteomics. 8 (6): 493-501.
  4. Cowley, M. and R. J. Oakey. 2013. Transposable Elements Re-Wire and Fine-Tune the Transcriptome. PLoS Genetics. 9 (1): e1003234. Posted on January 24, 2013.
  5. Macfarlan, T. S. et al. 2012. Embryonic stem cell potency fluctuates with endogenous retrovirus activity. Nature. 487 (7405): 57-63.
  6. Tomkins, J. 2012. Transposable Elements Key in Embryo Development. Posted on July 25, 2012.
  7. Chuong, E.B. et al. 2013. Endogenous retroviruses function as species-specific enhancer elements in the placenta. Nature Genetics. 45 (2013): 325-329.

*Dr. Tomkins is Research Associate at the Institute for Creation Research and received his Ph.D. in Genetics from Clemson University.

Article posted on March 27, 2013.

The Latest
"100-Million-Year-Old" Bacteria?
Researchers from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology have recovered what they claim are 100-million-year-old microbes. Drilling 74.5...

Origin of Tectonic Plates Best Explained by the Flood
A new study published in Nature Communications claims to have figured out how the tectonic plates may have originated.1 It’s been over...

Give Today and Support Biblical Creation Ministry
North Texas Giving Day is here once again! Will you help us reach the next generation? Your generosity will empower ICR and our Dallas Museum—the...

Mammalian Brains Prove Evolutionary Disconnect
The evolutionary model of brain development predicted that the complexity of neural connectivity should have increased as brains became larger and the...

North Texas Giving Day Next Week!
North Texas Giving Day is almost here! Will you help us reach the next generation? Your generosity will empower ICR and the ICR Discovery Center for Science...

Celebrating One Year at the ICR Discovery Center
Thank you to all who joined us for the ICR Discovery Center for Science & Earth History’s First Anniversary Celebration! ICR staff enjoyed meeting...

New Evidence Hurts Feathered Dinosaur Theory
Is a dinosaur still a dinosaur if it has flight feathers? A new study points to some fascinating evidence that contradicts the idea of feathered dinosaurs...

New Planetarium Show: Exploring Deep Space
The ICR Discovery Center for Science & Earth History is celebrating its first anniversary since the Grand Opening on September 2, 2019. To commemorate...

Inside September 2020 Acts & Facts
What's the story behind ICR's new President? What milestone are we celebrating this month at the ICR Discovery Center? How do comets affirm...

Sunflower Heliotropism: August Sunlight for Making Tons of Seeds
August is an important month for sunflowers—those gigantic, bright-yellow flowers with brownish, round seed heads bordered by radiating yellow ligules...