Genetic material derisively called “junk” DNA because it does not contain the instructions for protein-coding genes and appears to have little or no function is actually critically important to an organism’s evolutionary survival, according to a study conducted by a biologist at UCSD.
Fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Credit: UCSD
In the October 20 issue of Nature, Peter Andolfatto, an assistant professor of biology at UCSD, shows that these non-coding regions play an important role in maintaining an organism’s genetic integrity. In his study of the genes from the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, he discovered that these 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’s findings are important because the similarity of genome sequences in fruit flies, worms and humans suggest that similar processes are probably responsible for the differences between humans and their close evolutionary relatives.
Kim McDonald | EurekAlert!
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