Cell biology Intelligent Design

Science discovery: The non-existence of harmful proteins

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Isn’t this a design argument from the non-existence of the harmful proteins?

Minimal absent words (MAWs) are minimal-length oligomers absent from a genome or proteome. Although some artificially synthesized MAWs have deleterious effects, there is still a lack of a strategy for the classification of non-occurring sequences as potentially malicious or benign. In this work, by using Markovian models with multiple-testing correction, we reveal significant absent oligomers, which are statistically expected to exist. This suggests that their absence is due to negative selection. We survey genomes and proteomes covering the diversity of life and find thousands of significant absent sequences. Common significant MAWs are often mono- or dinucleotide tracts, or palindromic. Significant viral MAWs are often restriction sites and may indicate unknown restriction motifs. Surprisingly, significant mammal genome MAWs are often present, but rare, in other mammals, suggesting that they are suppressed but not completely forbidden. Significant human MAWs are frequently present in prokaryotes, suggesting immune function, but rarely present in human viruses, indicating viral mimicry of the host. More than one-fourth of human proteins are one substitution away from containing a significant MAW, with the majority of replacements being predicted harmful. We provide a web-based, interactive database of significant MAWs across genomes and proteomes.

Grigorios Koulouras, Martin C Frith, Significant non-existence of sequences in genomes and proteomes, Nucleic Acids Research, 2021;, gkab139, https://doi.org/10.1093/nar/gkab139

Note: “More than one-fourth of human proteins are one substitution away from containing a significant MAW, with the majority of replacements being predicted harmful.”

Just above that, they say “This suggests that their absence is due to negative selection.” That’s a lot of negative selection going on.

It feels somewhat like saying “The plagiarism checker provided considerable negative selection for the inappropriate use of others’ work.” Sure it did but that’s what it was designed to do.

The paper is open access.

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