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: The stapes of a neanderthal child points to the anatomical differences with our species

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Letting go of the (genetic) apron strings

Mar 20, 2015

A new study from Princeton University sheds light on the handing over of genetic control from mother to offspring early in development. Learning how organisms manage this transition could help researchers ...

Language of gene switches unchanged across the evolution

Mar 17, 2015

The language used in the switches that turn genes on and off has remained the same across millions of years of evolution, according to a new study led by researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. The ...

Baboon friends swap gut germs

Mar 16, 2015

The warm soft folds of the intestines are teeming with thousands of species of bacteria. Collectively known as the gut microbiome, these microbes help break down food, synthesize vitamins, regulate weight ...

Recommended for you

Destroyed Mosul artefacts to be rebuilt in 3D

Mar 27, 2015

It didn't take long for the scientific community to react. Two weeks after the sacking of the 300 year-old Mosul Museum by a group of ISIS extremists went viral on Youtube, researchers from the ITN-DCH, IAPP ...

Boys plagiarise more than girls at school

Mar 27, 2015

Research by the University of the Balearic Islands has analysed the phenomenon of academic plagiarism among secondary school students. The study, published in the journal Comunicar, confirms that this practi ...

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.