Tuesday, March 16, 2021

A key to the mystery of fast-evolving genes was found in ‘junk DNA’


A study done with fruit flies showed that new genes are important because they help regulate heterochromatin, which is a type of DNA. Heterochromatin is known as "junk DNA", but recently the DNA has been found to actually perform many jobs like locking up bad genes to prevent them from doing damage. In the article , Harmit Malik, a evolutionary biologist mentioned how fast Heterochromatin changes and how this causes genes to quickly adapt to keep up.

In the fruit flies, they found that 30% of new genes are essential. In the study, the fruit flies regulate other genes by turning off and on for various tasks. Malik and his team named one of the new essential genes they discovered Nicknack. This gene gives out instructions for a protein that binds to the heterochromatin. The study then looked at how essential Nicknack is and replaced the gene with its closest relative. The results showed that D melanogaster evolved into its own version of Nicknack. The team hopes to do more studies to understands how exactly Nicknack functions and learn more about heterochromatins role in evolution.

I think that this is a great evolutionary find and I hope to learn more about the DNA. I also think its funny how Heterochromatin is referred to as "junk Dna" but it actually it pretty important. I think more studies should be done on different species or even on humans to see exactly how heterochromatin works. I have listed another article that looks in heterochromatin and genomes.


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