Transposable elements and pregnancy complications

Frost Lab – overview

Ancient transposon sequences have the potential to regulate gene expression. This process is prominent in the placenta. Our research program seeks to explore the regulation and function of transposons in the human placenta, and their potential role in pregnancy complications. We are part of the Medical and Molecular Genetics department at King’s College London, Guy’s Campus.

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Transposable elements

Transposable elements (TE)s are DNA sequences that have, or previously had, the ability to move within the genome. Around half of the human genome is derived from TE sequences, which can be broadly classified by their mode of transposition, e.g. DNA transposons move via a cut-and-paste mechanism, and retrotransposons via a copy-and-paste mechanism, utilising an RNA intermediate. One particular family of retrotransposons, so-called Long Terminal Repeat (LTR) retrotransposons make up around 8% of the human genome. LTR elements, often present in the genome as lone LTRs following recombination, harbour transcription factor binding sites, and can regulate genes. As such, TEs have been shown to be important for many physiological functions in humans and other organisms. 

The human placenta

The placenta is vital for pregnancy, and its aberrant development can lead to pregnancy loss or other complications. Placentation requires a complex interplay between mother and fetus for healthy growth and development, and the genetic, epigenetic and environmental influences on this process are under explored and exciting areas of research.

Pregnant woman

Pregnancy complications

Pregnancy complications such as fetal growth restriction, stillbirth, spontaneous preterm birth, and a dangerous hypertensive disorder of pregnancy known as pre-eclampsia, affect up to 20 % of human pregnancies, causing maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality. Although the molecular aetiology of these disorders is not well understood, they are thought to share in part a common pathogenesis of insufficient uterine invasion by the placenta.

Medical and Molecular Genetics

Medical and Molecular Genetics (MMG) is a dynamic and interdisciplinary department, featuring expertise in genomics, genetics, and epigenetics across a wide range of human disease models. The department is part of the School of Basic and Medical Biosciences, within the Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine (FoLSM) at King’s College London. We are located in the Tower Wing of Guys Hospital.

Guy's hospital

King’s College London

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