What used to be dismissed by many as “junk DNA” is back with a vengeance as growing data points to the importance of non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) — genome’s messages that do not code for proteins — in development and disease. But our progress in understanding these molecules has been slow because of the lack of technologies that allow the systematic mapping of their functions.
Yes, that’s what they said.
ncRNAs come in multiple flavours: there’s rRNA, tRNA, snRNA, snoRNA, piRNA, miRNA, and lncRNA, to name a few, where prefixes reflect the RNA’s place in the cell or some aspect of its function. But the truth is that no one really knows the extent to which these ncRNAs control what goes on in the cell, nor how they do this. The new technology developed by Blencowe’s group has been able to pick up new interactions involving all classes of RNAs and has already revealed some unexpected findings.Paper. (paywall) – Eesha Sharma, Tim Sterne-Weiler, Dave O’Hanlon, Benjamin J. Blencowe. Global Mapping of Human RNA-RNA Interactions. Molecular Cell, 2016; DOI: 10.1016/j.molcel.2016.04.030 More.
It’s curious how blunt media releases are becoming, in dismissing the idea of “junk DNA.” But then Darwin didn’t predict junk DNA. Or junk RNA. Or that his stalwart followers would develop and promote the concept. So, leaving their interests aside, there isn’t a big investment in protecting the idea.
See also: “Inactive” gene helps prevent strokes A gene that “scientific dogma insists” is inactive in adults actually plays a vital role in preventing the underlying cause of most heart attacks and strokes, researchers have determined.
Jonathan Wells’s The Myth of Junk DNA
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