Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists Discover Parallel Codes In Genes

Date:
February 9, 2007
Source:
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Summary:
Researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science report the discovery of two new properties of the genetic code. Their work, which appears online in Genome Research, shows that the genetic code -- used by organisms as diverse as reef coral, termites, and humans -- is nearly optimal for encoding signals of any length in parallel to sequences that code for proteins.

Researchers from The Weizmann Institute of Science report the discovery of two new properties of the genetic code. Their work, which appears online in Genome Research, shows that the genetic code -- used by organisms as diverse as reef coral, termites, and humans -- is nearly optimal for encoding signals of any length in parallel to sequences that code for proteins. In addition, they report that the genetic code is organized so efficiently that when the cellular machinery misses a beat during protein synthesis, the process is promptly halted before energy and resources are wasted.

"Our findings open the possibility that genes can carry additional, currently unknown codes," explains Dr. Uri Alon, principal investigator on the project. "These findings point at possible selection forces that may have shaped the universal genetic code."

The genetic code consists of 61 codons--tri-nucleotide sequences of DNA--that encode 20 amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. In addition, three codons signal the cellular machinery to stop protein synthesis after a full-length protein is built.

While the best-known function of genes is to code for proteins, the DNA sequences of genes also harbor signals for folding, organization, regulation, and splicing. These DNA sequences are typically a bit longer: from four to 150 or more nucleotides in length.

Alon and his doctoral student Shalev Itzkovitz compared the real genetic code to alternative, hypothetical genetic codes with equivalent codon-amino acid assignment characteristics. Remarkably, Itzkovitz and Alon showed that the real genetic code was superior to the vast majority of alternative genetic codes in terms of its ability to encode other information in protein-coding genes--such as splice sites, mRNA secondary structure, or regulatory signals.

Itzkovitz and Alon also demonstrated that the real genetic code provides for the quickest incorporation of a stop signal--compared to most of the alternative genetic codes--in cases where protein synthesis has gone amiss (situations that scientists call "frameshift errors"). This helps the cell to conserve its energy and resources.

"We think that the ability to carry parallel codes--or information beyond the amino acid code--may be a side effect of selection for avoiding aberrant protein synthesis," says Itzkovitz. "These parallel codes were probably exploited during evolution to allow genes to support a wide range of signals to regulate and modify biological processes in cells."

The results of this study will be useful for researchers seeking to identify DNA sequences that regulate the expression and function of the genome. Many currently known regulatory sequences reside in non-protein-coding regions, but this may give scientists incentive to delve deeper into the protein-coding genes in order to solve life's mysteries.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. "Scientists Discover Parallel Codes In Genes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 February 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070208230116.htm>.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. (2007, February 9). Scientists Discover Parallel Codes In Genes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070208230116.htm
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. "Scientists Discover Parallel Codes In Genes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070208230116.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

AP (July 30, 2014) At least 20 New Jersey residents have tested positive for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo

Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo

AP (July 30, 2014) River otters were hitting the water slides to beat the summer heatwave on Wednesday at Ichikawa City's Zoological and Botanical Garden. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins