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New findings challenge established views on human genome

t may indicate that many species’ genomes contain a pool of functional elements, including RNA transcripts, that provide no specific benefits in terms of survival or reproduction. As this pool turns over during evolutionary time, researchers speculate it may serve as a “warehouse for natural selection” by acting as a source of functional elements unique to each species and of elements that perform the similar functions among species despite having sequences that appear dissimilar.

Other highlights of the ENCODE work include:

  • Identification of numerous previously unrecognized start sites for DNA transcription.
  • Evidence that, contrary to traditional views, regulatory sequences are just as likely to be located downstream of a transcription start site on a DNA strand as upstream.
  • Identification of specific signatures of change in histones, which are the proteins that organize DNA, and correlation of these signatures with different genomic functions.
  • Deeper understanding of how DNA replication is coordinated by modifications in histones.

“Teamwork was essential to the success of this effort. No single experimental approach can be used to identify all functional elements in the genome. So, it was necessary to conduct multiple, diverse experiments and then analyze them using multiple computational methods,” said Elise A. Feingold, Ph.D., program director for ENCODE in NHGRI’s Division of Extramural Research, which provided most of the funding for the pilot project.
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Source:NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute


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