Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

'Junk' DNA Proves To Be Highly Valuable

Date:
June 12, 2009
Source:
USDA/Agricultural Research Service
Summary:
What was once thought of as DNA with zero value in plants--dubbed "junk" DNA--may turn out to be key in helping scientists improve the control of gene expression in transgenic crops.

When ARS plant pathologist Bret Cooper and his collaborators investigated "junk" DNA in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, they may have found what could be the key to improving control of gene expression in transgenic crops.
Credit: Photo by Peggy Greb

What was once thought of as DNA with zero value in plants--dubbed "junk" DNA--may turn out to be key in helping scientists improve the control of gene expression in transgenic crops.

That's according to Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant pathologist Bret Cooper at the agency's Soybean Genomics and Improvement Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., and collaborators at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md.

For more than 30 years, scientists have been perplexed by the workings of intergenic DNA, which is located between genes. Scientists have since found that, among other functions, some intergenic DNA plays a physical role in protecting and linking chromosomes. But after subtracting intergenic DNA, there was still leftover or "junk" DNA which seemed to have no purpose.

Cooper and collaborators investigated "junk" DNA in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, using a computer program to find short segments of DNA that appeared as molecular patterns. When comparing these patterns to genes, Cooper's team found that 50 percent of the genes had the exact same sequences as the molecular patterns. This discovery showed a sequence pattern link between "junk" and coding DNA. These linked patterns are called pyknons, which Cooper and his team believe might be evidence of something important that drives genome expansion in plants.

The researchers found that pyknons are also the same in sequence and size as small segments of RNA that regulate gene expression through a method known as gene silencing. This evidence suggests that these RNA segments are converted back into DNA and are integrated into the intergenic space. Over time, these sequences repeatedly accumulate. Prior to this discovery, pyknons were only known to exist in the human genome. Thus, this discovery in plants illustrates that the link between coding DNA and junk DNA crosses higher orders of biology and suggests a universal genetic mechanism at play that is not yet fully understood.

The data suggest that scientists might be able to use this information to determine which genes are regulated by gene silencing, and that there may be some application for the improvement of transgenic plants by using the pyknon information.

This research was published online as an advance article on the Molecular BioSystems website, and will be published later this year in a special issue of Computational Systems Biology.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by USDA/Agricultural Research Service. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Feng et al. Coding DNA repeated throughout intergenic regions of the Arabidopsis thaliana genome: evolutionary footprints of RNA silencing. Molecular BioSystems, 2009; DOI: 10.1039/b903031j

Cite This Page:

USDA/Agricultural Research Service. "'Junk' DNA Proves To Be Highly Valuable." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 June 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090606105203.htm>.
USDA/Agricultural Research Service. (2009, June 12). 'Junk' DNA Proves To Be Highly Valuable. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090606105203.htm
USDA/Agricultural Research Service. "'Junk' DNA Proves To Be Highly Valuable." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090606105203.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Where's a body buried? Buster's nose can often tell you. He's a cadaver dog, specially trained to find human remains and increasingly being used by law enforcement and accepted in courts. These dogs are helping solve even decades-old mysteries. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Buzz60 (Oct. 20, 2014) An entomologist stumbled upon a South American Goliath Birdeater. With a name like that, you know it's a terrifying creepy crawler. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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