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Sunday, December 19, 2010

"Junk DNA" now rehabilitated as "dark matter"

Slowly, but surely, the junk DNA creeps down from the attic, up from the basement, and in from the shed:
Shining a Light on the Genome's 'Dark Matter'

Elizabeth Pennisi

Science 17 December 2010: Vol. 330 no. 6011 p. 1614 | DOI: 10.1126/science.330.6011.1614 (paywall)

It used to seem so straightforward. DNA told the body how to build proteins. The instructions came in chapters called genes. Strands of DNA's chemical cousin RNA served as molecular messengers, carrying orders to the cells' protein factories and translating them into action. Between the genes lay long stretches of “junk DNA,” incoherent, useless, and inert.

That was then. In fact, gene regulation has turned out to be a surprisingly complex process governed by various types of regulatory DNA, which may lie deep in the wilderness of supposed “junk.” Far from being humble messengers, RNAs of all shapes and sizes are actually powerful players in how genomes operate. Finally, there's been increasing recognition of the widespread role of chemical alterations called epigenetic factors that can influence the genome across generations without changing the DNA sequence itself.

The scope of this “dark genome” became apparent in 2001, ...
So the ID guys were right ... oh, wait, they can't be right. It's not in the script.

Heard a rumour that one of the ID theorists is writing a book on the uses of junk DNA. Can't be true, of course.

See also: Junk DNA: Darwinism's last stand?

Now junk DNA assists evolution

Hat tip: David Tyler

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