World Amazing Plant: Deletes its Noncoding "Junk" DNA

  • May, 12, 2013, 05:47 PM
carnivorous bladderwort plant
(Photo : Credit:Enrique Ibarra-Laclette and Claudia Anahí Pérez-Torres) Who would have thought that this tiny plant could have a treasure trove of evolutionary information?


How much of your DNA is constructive? Of the 3 billion letters that make up your genome, only 1.5 percent consists of genes-DNA actually does something useful, which carry the information for protein synthesis. Of the remaining 98.5 percent-the vast majority of the genetic material known as noncoding DNA that does not code for proteins, is not 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, according to Live Science.

In a project called ENCODE, the carnivorous bladderwort plant, Utricularia gibba is the smallest ever to be sequenced from a complex, multicellular plant. It is a flesh-eating water plant. When the researchers sequenced its genome, they noticed that 97 percent of the genome consists of genes-bits of DNA that code for proteins-and small pieces of DNA that control those genes (regulatory genes).

To their surprise, the plant has been busy deleting noncoding "junk" DNA from its genetic material over many generations. "Our results suggest that "junk" DNA is not necessary for the function of complex organisms," says Luis Herrera-Estrella who led the study, according to National geographic.

This may explain the difference between bladderworts and junk-heavy species like corn and tobacco-and humans.

Scientists say that the bladderwort plants are very wise. By deleting unwanted DNA, they save energy, because having lots of DNA is expensive in energy terms - plants need to keep a tether on it, and duplicate it all whenever cells divide.

The researching team also found out that other plants could also get rid of the junk DNA. Moreover, if the junk had any role previously, then the plants can achieve that role by other means. Therefore, we can have a perfectly good multicellular plant with lots of different cells, organs, tissue types and flowers, and you can do it without the junk.

However, Junk DNA may be useful for humans. 



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