Astonishing DNA complexity update

by Alex Williams

Published: July 3, 2007
Image istockphoto.com image of beads-on-a-string and profile of a human head

Recently we reported astonishing new discoveries about the complexity of the information content stored in the DNA molecule.1 Notably, the 97% of the human DNA that does not code for protein is not leftover ‘junk DNA’ from our evolutionary past, as previously thought, but is virtually all being actively used right now in our cells.

Here are a few more exciting details from the ENCODE (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements) pilot project report.2 As a help in understanding this, DNA is a very stable molecule ideal for storing information. In contrast, RNA is a very active (and unstable) molecule and does lots of work in our cells. To use the stored information on our DNA, our cells copy the information onto RNA transcripts that then do the work as instructed by that information.

References

  1. Alex Williams, Astonishing DNA complexity uncovered. Return to Text.
  2. Ewan Birney, et. al., Identification and analysis of functional elements in 1% of the human genome by the ENCODE pilot project, Nature 447: 799-816, 2007. Return to Text.
  3. Asifa Akhtar & Susan M. Gasser, The nuclear envelope and transcriptional control, Nature Reviews Genetics 8:507–517, 2007. Return to Text.
Alex Williams,
Ewan Birney, et. al., Identification and analysis of functional elements in 1% of the human genome by the ENCODE pilot project, Nature 447: 799-816, 2007.
Asifa Akhtar & Susan M. Gasser, The nuclear envelope and transcriptional control, Nature Reviews Genetics 8:507–517, 2007.

Related Articles