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Use it or lose it? Researchers investigate the dispensability of our DNA
Date:10/3/2008

ectly measured by our instruments, but to appreciate its full magnitude we must dig into the geological record," said Bejerano. "This digging into the genomic record is what our current work was all about."

Bejerano and graduate student Cory McLean studied the genomes of six mammals, investigating ultraconserved elements that are shared between primates and closely related mammals, were present in the ancestor of modern rodents, but have been lost in the rodent lineage more recently. The researchers found that the genomic evidence supports an important biological role for ultraconserved elements, as well as thousands of other non-coding elements that are resistant to deletion. "The functional importance of ultraconserved elements is reinforced by the observation that the elements are rarely lost in any species," said McLean. "In fact, they are over 300-fold less likely to be lost than genomic loci which evolve neutrally in our genome."

Bejerano explained that while loss of some elements may have a significant impact on the fitness of a species and the loss of other elements might be harder to detect in the laboratory, nearly all changes to these regions are picked up by evolution and swept out of the population.

"Perhaps our most striking observation is one of sheer magnitude," Bejerano said. "Our work highlights how essential these dozens of thousands of regions are to the natural evolution of a species even as their actual functions remain, at large, a mystery."


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Contact: Peggy Calicchia
calicchi@cshl.edu
516-422-4012
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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