Remember when junk DNA was a star exhibit for Darwinism as some sort of ageless truth? A promising new “definition” term is “the large proportion of our genome that does not instruct our cells to form proteins”:
While the large proportion of our genome that does not instruct our cells to form proteins has been harder to study than protein-coding genes, it has been shown to have vital physiological functions. Scientists have now developed new high-precision tools able to identify what these noncoding sequences do. The study may eventually contribute to the development of new, targeted drugs.Karolinska Institutet, “New tool reveals function of enigmatic gene sequences” at ScienceDaily (March 3, 2022)
The phrase is a bit longish, of course, but concision is usually a product of usage. It’s better than “non-coding DNA” because it’s more specific and limited as a privative. That is, there is a specific thing that that vast mass of DNA does not do. The phrase does not come with the implication that it doesn’t do anything.
The researchers’ main point is the work being done on discovering what the genes that don’t code for proteins actually do:
For this study, the researchers combined single-cell sequencing with mathematical calculations to show that it is possible in this way to identify the function of noncoding RNA, something that has proved very difficult before. Using these tools, they were then able to identify an entirely new mechanism for how the RNA molecules regulate the activity of protein-coding genes in their vicinity.
“After many years of development, single-cell sequencing has now reached a stage where we can isolate individual cells and study regulating mechanisms with high precision,” says principal investigator Rickard Sandberg, professor at the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, Karolinska Institutet. “This is multidisciplinary research that we believe will contribute significantly to our basic understanding of cell biology and that, in the long run, can give us new insights into how cellular function can be influenced through the agency of small drug substances.”Karolinska Institutet, “New tool reveals function of enigmatic gene sequences” at ScienceDaily (March 3, 2022)
Expect many more surprises.
The paper is open access.
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Junking more claims around junk DNA. Apparently, repeated sequences have a function: “Marshall explains that previous technology that was used to sequence the human genome made scientists “blind” to the fact that such sequences are, in fact, useful.”
At Scientific American: Salamander “junk DNA” challenges long-held view of evolution Douglas Fox at SciAm: The salamanders would be on death’s door if they were human. “Everything about having a large genome is costly,” Wake told me in 2020. Yet salamanders have survived for 200 million years. “So there must be some benefit,” he said. The hunt for those benefits has led to some heretical surprises, potentially turning our understanding of evolution on its head.