Wednesday, May 15, 2013

'Junk' DNA Mystery Solved: It's Not Needed

The humped bladderwort plant (shown here in a scanning electron micrograph) is a voracious carnivore, with its tiny bladders leveraging vacuum pressure to suck in bitty prey at great speed.


One person's trash may be another person's treasure, but sometimes, trash is just trash.

So-called junk DNA, the vast majority of the genome that doesn't code for proteins, really isn't needed for a healthy organism, according to new research.

"At least for a plant, junk DNA really is just junk — it's not required," said study co-author Victor Albert, a molecular evolutionary biologist at the University of Buffalo in New York.

While the findings, published Sunday (May 12) in the journal Nature, concern a carnivorous plant, they could have implications for the human genome as well. Genes make up only 2 percent of the human genome, and researchers have argued in recent years that the remaining 98 percent may play some hidden, useful role. (Image Gallery: Amazing Carnivorous Plants)

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