Study: Junk DNA is critically important

Oct 19, 2005

A University of California-San Diego scientist says genetic material derisively called "junk" DNA is important to an organism's evolutionary survival.

Junk DNA is so-called because it doesn't contain instructions for protein-coding genes and appears to have little or no function. But Peter Andolfatto, an assistant professor of biology, says such DNA plays an important role in maintaining an organism's genetic integrity.

In studying the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, Andolfatto discovered such regions are strongly affected by natural selection -- the evolutionary process that preferentially leads to the survival of organisms and genes best adapted to the environment.

Andolfatto says his findings are important because the similarity of genome sequences in fruit flies, worms and humans suggests similar processes are probably responsible for differences between humans and their close evolutionary relatives.

"Sequencing of the complete genome in humans, fruit flies, nematodes and plants has revealed the number of protein-coding genes is much more similar among these species than expected," he said. "Curiously, the largest differences between major species groups appear to be the amount of 'junk' DNA, rather than the number of genes."

He details his research in the Oct. 20 issue of Nature.

Copyright 2005 by United Press International

Explore further: Super Bowl athletes are scientists at work

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Solving the Hox Specificity Paradox

Jan 22, 2015

The remarkable diversity of anatomical features along the body axis of animals—the differences between the head, the thorax and the abdomen, for example—is determined by proteins in the Hox family. But ...

Nutrient availability can cause whole-genome recoding

Dec 09, 2014

The availability of a trace nutrient can cause genome-wide changes to how organisms encode proteins, report scientists from the University of Chicago in PLoS Biology on Dec. 9. The use of the nutrient - which is produced by bac ...

Recommended for you

Super Bowl athletes are scientists at work

Jan 30, 2015

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman gets called a lot of things. He calls himself the greatest cornerback in the NFL (and Seattle fans tend to agree). Sportswriters and some other players call him ...

Reintegrating extremist into society

Jan 30, 2015

The UK government's increasingly punitive response to those involved in terrorism risks undermining efforts to successfully reintegrate former extremists, according to research by the University of St Andrews.

Strategies to enhance intelligence analysis

Jan 30, 2015

If you've ever watched a thriller about undercover agents, you probably have the impression that intelligence officers are models of objectivity, pragmatism and sharp, unbiased thinking. However, in reality ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.